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STEPHEN BACKHOUSE

ESSENTIAL
COMPANION TO
ZO N D E RVA N

CHRISTIAN
HISTORY

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CONTENTS

1. Servants and Leaders: 1–100 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


2. Love and Courage: 100–200 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
3. Martyrs and Heretics: 200–300 . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
4. Establishment and Resistance: 300–400 . . . . . . 32
5. East and West: 400–500 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
6. Centres and Margins: 500–600 . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
7. Soldiers and Missionaries: 600–700 . . . . . . . . . 56
8. Monks and Emperors: 700–800 . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
9. Conversion and Culture: 800–900 . . . . . . . . . . 72
10. Green Shoots, Dead Branches: 900–1000 . . . . . 80
11. Popes, Kings, and Peasants: 1000–1100 . . . . . . . 88
12. War and Peace: 1100–1200 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
13. Empire and Wilderness: 1200–1300 . . . . . . . . 108
14. Humility and Power: 1300–1400 . . . . . . . . . . 120
15. Church and State: 1400–1500 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
16. Expansion and Consolidation: 1500–1600 . . . 140
17. Reform and Revival: 1600–1700 . . . . . . . . . . 152
18. Reason and Revolution: 1700–1800 . . . . . . . . 164
19. Progress and Preservation: 1800–1900 . . . . . . 178
20. Sacrifice and Invention: 1900–2000 . . . . . . . . 196
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215

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1 O
SERVANTS AND
LEADERS: 1–100

nce upon a time in first-­century Roman-­


occupied Palestine, an itinerant Jewish
teacher began to attract attention for his
surprising statements about God, his radical
approach to religion and politics, and his healing
care for the poor, lonely, and sick. His message
Citizenship in this kingdom came with its own
set of freedoms, rights, and responsibilities:
a new spiritual reality that had practical, social
consequences. Belief in the God who became
Man and belief in the values of his kingdom
provided the twin drives for the new movement
offended the ruling authorities, and he was exe- that came to be known as Christianity.
cuted. Shortly thereafter, his followers began Christians have not always been true to
to claim that their leader was not dead but had their namesake, and the societies they produce
been raised to life. What is more, they began to have not always expressed the best of their val-
make startling claims about the divine nature of ues. Yet time and again Christianity has inspired
this man whose inf luence continued to animate heroic men and women to work against their
their growing communities. It began to dawn own best interest, and against the common
on these people that this man Jesus was not sense of their culture, in the service of others.
only God’s “Messiah” or “Christ”—­a saviour Christendom’s kings have started wars, and its
awaited by the Jews who was expected to bring merchants have traded in exploitation, while its
God’s kingdom on earth—­he was also, in some peacemakers have brought down tyrannies and
mysterious way, God himself in human form. its scientists have cured diseases. Acts of deepest
Jesus Christ’s main message was that the folly can be found alongside work of the highest
kingdom of God was not only near, it was here. wisdom: the same century that saw the first
His followers taught that through Jesus, for- Crusades also saw the creation of the first uni-
giveness of sin, reconciliation with God, and versities and hospitals of the modern tradition.
membership of this kingdom were open to all. Christendom’s thinkers provided the foundation

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Servants and Leaders: 1–100

for the philosophical ideas that continue to shape


modern life. Its artists, writers, and musicians
account for many of the world’s cultural trea-
sures. From the start, the various communities
of Christ have displayed a vibrancy, originality,
stubbornness, f lexibility, ferocity, and gentleness
unparalleled in history.
In the telling of this story, certain themes
can be traced throughout the centuries. One
recurring motif is that of martyrdom. Christi-
anity began with a crucifixion, and persecution
of Christ’s followers remains a constant reality
worldwide. Indeed, more people have been
killed for their Christian faith in the modern
age than at any other time in history. The reality
of martyrdom is closely related to another com-
mon theme, that of the ambiguous relationship
between Christians and their countries. From
Constantine to Charlemagne, Kublai Khan to
King Henry VIII, from Russian tsars to Amer-
ican presidents, the story of Christendom is,
in many ways, the story of the state seeking
to control, manage, or harness the power of
Christianity. Another key theme is that of inter-
nal restoration. Wherever Christian institutions
have become too much like the world around
them, reform movements are never far behind.  The oldest known Christ Pantocrator, at St. Catherine’s
Historically, Christians have often proven to be Monastery, sixth-­seventh century AD
the fiercest critics of Christendom. Z. Radovan/BibleLandPictures.com

Christianity is the most diffuse faith on


earth. Its followers are widespread, its ideas the faith and transmitted it to others, keeping
profound, and its implications far-­reaching. As alive traditions and customs that would shape
a result, Christianity has provoked dissent as future generations. While not a total history,
much as it has inspired emulation, and for this this book provides a guide through the whirl-
reason it is apparent that a history of Christianity wind of extraordinary people, ideas, events of
is also, in many ways, a history of the modern war, and pursuits of peace that have come to
world itself. The whole history of Christianity the attention of historians and that have shaped
can never be told, as the full, real story lies in the the major contours of Christian thought and
day-­to-­d ay lives of men and women who lived practice throughout the world.

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Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History

c. 40–44
• Christians (meaning “Christ’s
ones”) first used in Antioch,
probably as a pejorative term.
• Christianity develops as a con-
tentious movement within
Judaism. Stephen becomes
the first Christian martyr. The c. 59–61
apostle Peter is imprisoned and Paul in Rome.
questioned by the Judean king,
Herod Agrippa.
• Peter possibly in Rome. c. 58
• After his conversion experience, Paul writes his Epistle
Saul of Tarsus adopts the name to the Romans to a
Paul and ceases persecuting church already well
the Christian sect. established in Rome.


30 40 50 60

c. 30 c. 47–57
Crucifixion of Jesus, called by his Jewish • The apostle Paul active in Arabia, Tarsus,
disciples the Christ (meaning “Messiah” Cyprus, central Asia Minor, Macedonia,
or “anointed one”). Shortly thereafter, the Corinth, Ephesus, and elsewhere, preach-
disciples begin to claim publicly that Jesus ing primarily to non-­Jewish gentiles.
had risen to life and that this resurrection • Jerusalem and Antioch are major bases
was a sign of the present reality and future for the movement. The word church (from
hope of the kingdom of God. Their message the Greek meaning “assembled for a
is met with resistance in Jerusalem but also common purpose”) is in common usage.
attracts many followers to the Way of Christ.

 The Crucifixion, altarpiece of San Martino  Paul Preaching at Athens, from the Sistine Chapel
Gianni Dagli Orti/Shutterstock Wikimedia Commons

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Servants and Leaders: 1–100

THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS

Almost all the information that we have about


the earliest Christians comes from their doc-
uments and letters collected together as the
New Testament. Thus, the historical study
of the first church is necessarily a matter for
biblical scholars. The subject has attracted
much attention and debate over the years,
especially around the dating of the Gospels,
 The interior of Karanlik Kilise in Goreme, Turkey,
with most scholars proposing dates ranging
with fresco decorations firdes sayilan/123RF.com
from before c. 70 to the late 90s.

70 80 90 100

c. 70 c. 96
Romans occupy Jerusalem Bishop Clement of Rome’s
and destroy the Jewish temple, First Epistle accepts Paul’s
creating a diaspora of Jews letters as Scripture along with
and Christians. the Hebrew Old Testament.

c. 64 c. 81–96
The term Christian is in common circulation The book of Revelation (the final book in
by the time Emperor Nero (37–68) institutes the New Testament) most likely addresses
the first official state persecution. According churches under persecution by Emperor
to tradition, Peter and Paul were among those Domitian (c. 51–96).
martyred at this time. The fierceness of Nero’s
persecution and the behaviour of the Christians
in the face of injustice are said to have pro-
voked feelings of sympathy and admiration
amongst the wider Roman population.

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2 LOVE AND COURAGE:
100–200

A
s the first generations of Christians passed
away, the followers of Christ in the sec-
ond century found themselves having
to deal with the issue of legitimate authority.
Who best preserved the message of Jesus and
his apostles? As the new movement explored
These people refused to incorporate local gods
into their worship, he said, and they did not
partake in the cult of the emperor. Although
they were good citizens in other respects,
their refusal to treat the emperor as a god was
worrying. Since they did not worship any of
the depths of Christian thought, some groups the publicly available deities, these Christians
radically diverged from the original teaching, were deemed to be atheists. And atheists are an
spreading ideas that continue to divide Christi- unstable, subversive element to any society that
anity to the present day. Christians also looked requires displays of civic religion for the smooth
for ways to communicate the new theology to running of that society. Trajan counselled that
a world that was largely hostile: persecution and care should be taken over prosecution and that
martyrdom form the backdrop to Christianity’s anonymous accusations of Christianity should
development throughout this era. not be accepted; however, he advised Pliny not
to tolerate the obstinate religion.
Obstinate Atheists
By 100, Trajan (53–117) had been emperor
The Way
of the Roman Empire for two years. In 111 But this subversive sect was growing. By the
he received the first of a series of letters from opening of the century, of the estimated 60
Pliny the Younger (c. 62–115), governor of million of the known world’s population,
Bithynia. Pliny was concerned about a new, approximately 7,500 belonged to “the Way” of
“obstinate” religious group active in his region. Christ. Their communities dotted the Roman

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Love and Courage: 100–200

THE DIDACHE

The long title of this work (which means


“Teaching”) is “The Teaching of the Lord,
through the Twelve Apostles, to the Gentiles.”
The exact date is contested, but many schol-
ars place it c. 100, making it the oldest Chris-
tian writing outside of the New Testament.
The piece offers a window into earliest church
culture, including instruction on the Way of
Life and the Way of Death, early forms of the
Lord’s Prayer, and Eucharistic and baptismal
liturgies. A Trinitarian formula is also present,
as is instruction for the right way to deal with
travelling prophets and residential teachers.

Empire and beyond. By 115 there were reports


that Christianity had reached Edessa, outside  In order to escape persecution, the early Christians
of the empire’s eastern border. The Christians often worshipped in rooms and tunnels carved from the
met regularly in the houses of their richer underground, much like these catacombs at Kom al-­
Shuqafa, Alexandria. Gianni Dagli Orti/Shutterstock
members—­textile merchants, Roman soldiers,
and those in other professions. Organised under
a network of deacons and bishops, they com-
municated with each other through travelling
preachers and a robust exchange of letters, writ-
ten instructions, and histories about their Jewish
founder, Jesus Christ. Yet despite all this it was
clear that not everyone agreed on what it meant
to be “Christian.”

Legitimate Authority
One of the most prominent church leaders of
the early second century was Clement, bishop
(or “pope”) of Rome (active c. 96). The third
man to hold this office after the apostle Peter,  Statue of Emperor Trajan in Rome
Clement wrote documents that offer a window © 2015 by Zondervan

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 The Roman Empire at the beginning of the second
century AD
 Clement I, one of the first popes of Rome after the
apostle Peter Public Domain

into the issues faced by the Christian church


of his day. His First Epistle to the Corinthians
(written c. 96) addresses fierce inter-­church
factions, demands the reinstatement of deposed
presbyters, and calls for a return to obedience
of legitimate church authorities.
Legitimate authority was a key issue for the
early church. For Ignatius, bishop of Antioch
(c. 50–c. 98/117), unity under the care of proper
authority was essential. It is probably from
Ignatius that we first have the idea of a catho-
lic (“universal”) church. Ignatius insisted that
without the action of the bishop, both marriage
and the Eucharist were invalid. These practices
were important because for Ignatius, bodies
were important. Marriage affirms sex and birth,

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 The Christian church in the first and second centuries

families, and hospitality. The Eucharist is a cel- THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS


ebration of the life of Christ, who was both
divine and human. With his affirmation of the A freed slave who later became a rich
physical and material, Ignatius joins the ranks merchant before losing his fortune, Her-
of other church leaders concerned to counter mas was most likely a contemporary of
the most potent of the contemporary rival Clement; however, some scholars date
claims to Christian authority and authenticity: his work between 140 and 155. In any
Gnosticism. case, the Shepherd combines mys-
tical visions with practical teaching,
emphasising that even sins commit-
Gnosticism ted after baptism can be forgiven. The
Flourishing in Alexandria and Egypt since the work was so popular and so influential
first decades of the second century, the vari- that churches in the East considered it
ous Gnostic groups claimed secret knowledge part of Scripture in the second and third
(or gnosis) handed down from the apostles. Apart centuries.
from their claim to know more than what was

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Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History

freely available in the Gospels and the Epistles, message of Christ is the only way to escape
a further challenge came by way of the Gnos- to the pure, spiritual realm. There are many
tic distinction between the material and the bewildering Gnostic variations, but all tend to
spiritual worlds. Gnosticism demonizes matter share two main features: the first is that because
by claiming that the world was created by an the Jews worship the Creator God, Gnostics
evil god (the Demiurge) and that the (secret) seek to purge all Jewish inf luence from their
own thought. The other main feature is that
Gnostics are unwilling and unable to affirm the
bodily incarnation of Jesus Christ. They argue
instead for Docetism, the view that Jesus only
appeared to be human.

Apologetics
Christian claims were also a challenge to Roman
and Greek philosophy. Aristides of Athens
(?–­c. 140) is thought to have written the first
Christian Apology, reportedly presented to
Emperor Hadrian in 125. Aristides helped set
the pattern for much of Christian apologetics
 The Temple of Esna, a second-­century shrine located
on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. Public Domain
by attempting to prove the existence of God.
He also addressed the limits of other world-
views, demonstrating how Christianity meets
MARCION (C. 85–C. 160) the moral and intellectual demands that other
systems fail to meet.
The Gnostic Marcion of Sinope was declared
a heretic and excommunicated from the
church in Rome in 144. Marcion denied that
Justin Martyr
Christ was born of a woman or that his body Another early apologist, Justin (c. 100–c. 165)
was material. He rejected the Hebrew Scrip- was the first writer to systematically combine
tures as irrelevant to the new revelation of the claims of faith and reason. Born into a pagan
Christ, and he rejected the original apostles family, Justin converted to Christianity in 130,
as being too Jewish to understand Jesus after which he embarked on a teaching career in
correctly. The debate with Marcion catalysed Ephesus and started a school in Rome. His First
Christian thinking about the relationship Apology (c. 155) was written for Emperor Pius
between the Old and New Testaments and and argues that Christianity is the most rational
paved the way for the eventual formation of philosophy. His Second Apology addresses the
the Christian canon. Roman Senate, again attempting to refute the
rational objections to Christian life and thought.

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Love and Courage: 100–200

as the bishop of Smyrna, was Polycarp (c. 69–​


c. 156). A leading light of the second-­century
church, Polycarp is said to have been appointed
bishop by the original apostles, and his Epistle to
the Philippians (c. 116) provides insight into early
Christian use of apostolic literature. But it was
the Martyrdom of Polycarp (Martyrium Polycarpi),
a book recounting Polycarp’s trial and death by
burning and stabbing in c. 156, that perhaps had
the most lasting inf luence on the Christianity
of the second and third centuries.

Cult of Martyrs
The story of Polycarp’s last days became the
standard for other martyr accounts, known as
the Acta (“acts”). They emphasised both the
graphic details of the martyr’s execution and the
holy, Christlike way in which the martyr went
to his or her death. The common practice of
venerating the martyr’s bones began with Poly-
 Justin Martyr taught the connection between
carp too, when his preserved remains formed
philosophy and theology. He was killed for his faith. the focus of an annual event celebrating the
Tupungato/Shutterstock “birthday” of his martyrdom. This was the
beginning of the era known as the “Cult of
Although his writings would later go on to be Martyrs,” in which some Christians enthusi-
foundational works of Christian literature, they astically embraced persecution and many more
were not immediately successful in convinc- revered the martyrs as attaining the heights of
ing pagan Rome, and Justin was martyred by spiritual perfection.
beheading sometime around 165.
Stoic Persecution
Martyrdom of Polycarp After Polycarp’s death, a campaign of intense
Justin’s fate at the hands of the state was not persecution of Christians took place under
rare. Ignatius was martyred in Rome in 107. By Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Since he was a Stoic
124, official persecutions had increased under philosopher, many Christians had hoped that
Emperor Hadrian, leading to the execution Aurelius would give their religion a fair hearing,
of Telesphorus, bishop of Rome, in 137. Also and apologists such as Justin addressed books
sometimes active in Rome, but known primarily to him. Yet Aurelius remained convinced that

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Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History

Christianity was an internal threat to Roman


society. Rome at this time was troubled by wars,
invasion by the Parthians (163–166), repeated
attacks from northern Germanic tribes (166–
180), a plague (166–167), and revolts in Syria
and Egypt (175). In these times of unrest, super-
stitious populations were keen to find someone
to blame, and often it was the “atheistic” Chris-
tians who drew their anger. Aurelius allowed
his regional rulers to step up their attacks on
local Christian groups.

Martyrs of Lyons
One such attack happened in Lyons in 177 when
the governor executed all Christians who did
not recant. The purge resulted in the capture
and public execution of some forty-­eight people,
including the ninety-­year-­old Bishop Pothinus
 The remains of the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, Tripoli, (c. 87–177) who was starved and then stoned
Libya, dating from AD 163 Patrick Poendl/123RF.com to death.

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Love and Courage: 100–200

The First Catholic


BLANDINA (DATES UNKNOWN)
The church was in disarray, leading to the elec-
A slave girl, Blandina was one of the Martyrs tion of Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 202) as the new bishop
of Lyons in 177. Although frail and weak after of Lyons in 178. Irenaeus is widely considered
a period of starvation, she is said to have to be the first great Catholic writer and pastor.
endured tortures that left even her tormen- He mediated disputes between the Eastern and
tors tired and in need of a rest. When she Western Churches and developed strong ties
was hung out on a pole as bait for wild ani- with Gaelic-­speaking barbarian tribes. His rule
mals, Blandina’s fellow Christians took heart of apostolic origin meant that it was bishops, not
as they saw in her “him who was crucified for scholars or itinerant preachers, who had prime
them.” Finally, Blandina was scourged, burnt, authority in the church, for their office was
tied up, and thrown into a ring where she inherited from the original disciples. He upheld
was trampled to death by a bull. Her story the Old Testament as Scripture and defended
is recounted in The Letter of the Churches of the four Gospels as canon. Irenaeus is primarily
Vienne and Lyons, collected by Eusebius of known for his battle with Gnosticism, and his
Caesarea (c. 260–341). most important work is called Against Heresies
(Adversus Haereses, c. 185).

Carthage
MARCIA (DATES UNKNOWN)
Persecution was widespread, and not confined
Christians fared slightly better under Emperor to the western reaches of the Roman Empire.
Commodus (ruler from 180 to 192) than they One of the earliest African Christian documents
did under his father, Aurelius. This was due is the Acta of the Scillitan Martyrs. Five women
in large part to the influence of Commodus’s and seven men were executed at Scillium, near
concubine, Marcia. She sought to benefit Carthage, in 180 on charges primarily related to
Christians and used her position at court to the accusation that as Christians they owed alle-
bring them favour. In one instance, Marcia giance to a Lord who was higher than emper-
ensured the release of Christians sentenced ors or kings. Accounts suggest that the martyrs
to penal slavery in Sardinia, including Callis- enjoyed popular local support, and indeed,
tus, a future pope. North Africa was a major centre of Christian-
ity. Christians in Carthage were not allowed to
own land in the city, but they had established
 The Alexamenos graffito, one of the earliest depictions a Christian graveyard outside the boundaries,
of Jesus’s crucifixion, shows a man worshipping a
and the Carthaginian Church was a leader in
donkey-­headed figure. The graffiti reads, “Alexamenos
worships his God,” apparently mocking a Christian
Christian life and thought. The African church
named Alexamenos. father Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225) grew up in
Z. Radovan/BibleLandPictures.com Carthage and joined the church there after his

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Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History

conversion from paganism. Writing in Latin


THE MURATORIAN CANON rather than the traditional Greek, Tertullian
was a master of communication who aimed
Named after the man who discovered the his writings at sophisticated Roman audiences.
manuscript in 1740, the “Muratorian Frag-
ment” is the oldest known list and overview
of the canonical books in the New Testa-
Alexandria
ment. The original was probably written in In the Egyptian metropolis of Alexandria,
Rome sometime between 180 and 200. The Christianity seems to have emerged out of
incomplete document describes twenty-­two the strong Jewish community, perhaps at the
of the twenty-­seven books in the New Tes- instigation of Mark the Evangelist. Alexandria
tament and is an invaluable source for his- was known as a centre for religious ferment,
torians of the biblical canon. It provides a and many cults jostled for attention. Much of
window into the writings used, and not used, Alexandrian Christian culture was strongly
by the early church. inf luenced by Gnosticism, and it is probable that
the Gnostic texts Epistle of Barnabas, The Gospel
of the Egyptians, and The Gospel to the Hebrews

 Patio of a Roman villa, Odeon Quarter, Carthage, Tunisia


Wikimedia Commons

 Tertullian, the premier North African theologian, is


considered to be the father of Latin Christianity.
Historia/Shutterstock

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Love and Courage: 100–200

all emerged from here. Orthodox Christianity For this reason, Clement is sometimes regarded
also had a presence, represented most strongly as the first self-­conscious theologian and ethicist.
by Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215). Clement was forced to f lee his school, along
with many other Christians in Alexandria and
The First Theologian Carthage, because of a rash of local discrimina-
tion campaigns that f lourished under the new
Said to come originally from Athens, Clement African-­born emperor Septimus Severus—­a
became head of the Catechetical School in the city period of persecution that began at the close of
in 190. The school taught Christianity as the true the century in 199.
philosophy to advanced scholars but also trained
new converts (catechumens) in preparation for full
acceptance into the church. A f lavour of their CHURCH FATHERS
education can be seen in the trilogy of texts pro-
duced by Clement during his time as head of the Tertullian’s Apology (c. 197) marks the high

school. The Exhortation to the Greeks (Protreptikos), point of second-­century writing and is con-

The Instructor (Paidagogos), and The Miscellanies sidered to be the source of the Latin Christian

(Stromateis) engage with pagan Greek philosophy literary tradition. Cyprian called Tertullian his

on one side and Gnostic Christian thought on “master,” as did Augustine. Together, these

the other. The books are not concerned simply three North Africans are considered to be the

with theory and often stress the moral discipline fathers of the Western churches.

and duties that follow from Christian claims.

EASTER
Furthermore, in addition to representing the divi-
The early church was faced with a problem. sion that had existed between Jewish and gentile
Should Easter be celebrated according to the Christians since the earliest days of Christianity
time of Passover in the lunar Jewish calendar, (see, for example, Galatians 2:1–21), the conflict
or was the solar, gentile “Julian” calendar more highlighted the emerging differences between
appropriate? The older traditions of Asia Minor East and West. Sensing a challenge to Roman
celebrated the Christian pascha according to the authority, the African pope Victor I (presided 189–
Jewish date for Passover (called Quartodeciman 198) threatened to excommunicate the Quarto-
because it fell on the fourteenth day after the decimans, a move opposed by Irenaeus of Lyons.
spring full moon). The gentile Roman Christians The search for a uniform method for establishing
held out for celebrating Easter on the Sunday the calendar date of Easter was picked up again
following the spring equinox. The conflict mat- at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but even
tered because it touched on the centrality of today the date for Easter varies between Eastern
the resurrection of Jesus for Christian belief. and Western traditions.

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ZONDERVAN

Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History


Copyright © 2019 by Stephen Backhouse

ISBN 978-0-310-59948-7 (softcover)

ISBN 978-0-310-59949-4 (ebook)

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Zondervan, 3900 Sparks Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546

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Ayasofya Muzesi/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0
Interior design: Kait Lamphere
Images in front matter and rear matter: © diak/Shutterstock, © Peter Zaharov/Shutterstock, © OSORIOartist/Shutterstock
Editorial: Katya Covrett, Elise Emmert, Robert Hudson

Printed in China

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The Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History is visually captivating—­every
page a joy to behold. But what makes this book so special is how Stephen Backhouse
tells the Christian story. Facts and stories about saints, martyrs, heretics, monks, and
missionaries fill the pages. This is a history book that reads like an adventure novel.
Richard Beck, professor at Abilene Christian University,
author of Unclean and Stranger God

This gathering together of snapshots from two thousand years of church history
refreshingly lets each century tell its own part of the tale; and Stephan Backhouse
is a brilliant guide through the bewildering twists and turns.
David Benjamin Blower, Nomad Podcast, writer and musician

Backhouse describes the history of official Christendom “from above,” but crucially,
he also tells the story of the numerous movements renewing Christianity “from
below.” No history of the church is complete that does not give time to these radical
reforming men and women. A brilliant and beautiful book!
Pete Greig, founder of 24-7 Prayer International; senior
pastor at Emmaus Rd, Guildford; author of Dirty Glory

This volume is an invaluable resource for anyone looking for a compact yet remark-
ably comprehensive summary of Christian history. It includes a welcome emphasis on
a global perspective, as well as highlighting the role of women in relation to many
of the key developments in the church. It comes highly recommended.
Lucy Peppiatt, principal of Westminster Theological Centre

Rich, concise, and built for our most dynamic leaders (who will never darken the
door of a seminary), this short volume is Backhouse’s latest masterpiece tool for the
local church. If locally-­deployed church planters knew their history, they would be
far less likely to repeat its mistakes.
Graham Singh, executive director of Church Planting
Canada, rector of St. Jax Montreal

This book is well-­named. It is indeed an essential companion to those entering


into the study of church history. It gives students an outstanding way of orienting
themselves, putting the towering figures of history into their social and theological
contexts. It is full of helpful detail without being overwhelming, and it is written in a
clear and engaging style, which draws the student in, teaching without daunting them.
Jane Williams, assistant dean and tutor in theology, St. Mellitus College

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