A Simple Timeline Proves the Early Church was Catholic---revised

By request I am starting a new thread based on this subject. The old thread is over a year old.

One of the areas of Church history that has always fascinated me is the study of New Testament era chronology. Protestants act as if the Bible was written like a modern novel. Starting with Matthew on. However, the writing of the New Testament was not that cut and dry. As one puts together a timeline of Church history, including in that works written that are not included in the New Testament, one must reach a conclusion that the early Church was indeed Catholic. By the time the Gospel of John was written for example, the Church was already 50 years old (which forces a Catholic view of John 6). But more importantly, the Christians that lived at the time all have very Catholic views. Not a Baptist among them.
I have concocted a timeline here deliberately within a 100 year period between the Resurrection of Christ to Justin Martyr (roughly 130 AD.) Think of it from World War 2 on. There are people still alive to remember the events.
I do not claim this timeline to be exact, but its pretty close:

c. 30-33 - The death and resurrection of Jesus
c. 35 - The conversion of Paul
40s or 50s - James
c. 45-49 - Paul’s first missionary journey
Sometime between 48 and 58 - Paul writes Galatians
c. 50-53 - Paul’s second missionary journey
50s - Paul writes Titus
50s or 60s -** Mark** written (based on oral tradition set down by Peter).
50s or 60s - Matthew written
51 - Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians
c. 53-57 - Paul’s third missionary journey
Spring of 55 - Paul writes 1 Corinthians
56 - Paul writes 2 Corinthians
c. 57 - Paul writes Romans
c. 60 - Paul writes Colossians, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 60 - Paul writes Philemon, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 60 - Paul writes Ephesians, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 61 - Paul writes Philippians, while in prison in Rome
Early 60s - Luke written
c. 60-70 - The Didache is written.
c. 62 - Paul is free
c. 62-64 - Luke writes Acts
c. 62-64 - Paul writes 1 Timothy
July 18-19, 64 - The Great Fire of Rome. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians, and a great persecution ensued.
Mid 60s - 1 Peter written
c. 64-68 - Paul writes 2 Timothy from prison
c. 67-68 - 2 Peter
c. 68 - Hebrews is written
June 9, 68 - The death of Nero. Sometime between the Great Fire of Rome and the death of Nero, both Peter and Paul were martyred.
c. 69 - Jude
70 - The Seige of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple
c. 70-80- The Epistle of Barnabus is written.
c. 85 - John written
Late First Century -** 1, 2, and 3 John**
95- The Epistle of Clement is written…
c. 95-96 - John writes Revelation
c. 60-120- The writings of Papias (only fragments remain).
c. 105- The Epistles of Ignatius are written as he heads for Rome for execution.
c. 105-125- The Epistle of Polycarp is written.
c. 125-130- The Letter to Diognetus is written.
c. 125-130- The Epistle of Aristides is written.
c. 130- The Martyrdom of Polycarp is written.
c. 130-150- The Shepherd of Hermas is written.
c.100-165- The writings of Justin Martyr, much of it written in the 130s.

So tell us Protestants, why is it **within a 100 year **period, does the Church look so Catholic?

So, lets see.
The Ressurection is now 70 years old, and here is what Ignatuis says about the Eucharist:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1.

. . . and are now ready to obey your bishop and clergy with undivided minds and to share in the one common breaking of bread – the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ for evermore
Letter to the Ephesians 20.

And, look at what the Didache says about Baptism:

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days
Didache 7:1.

And, oh, look what Clement of Rome has to say about Saved by Faith and Works, and Not Faith Alone:

“Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. ‘For God,’ saith [the Scripture], ‘resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.’ Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 30.

“For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 31.

“All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.

Oh, and compare what Ignatuis says about the Eucharist:

…the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ…
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1.

to what John wrote in his Gospel just twenty years before:

John 6 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Also, Protestants, compare this verse Luke wrote in Acts:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

to this statement by Barnabus probably only a decade or so later:

“Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

How did these early first generation christians describe themselves?

Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church
Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2.

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ***, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath
The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8.

Lets stick to the first 100 years.
Seventy years after the Resurrection we have Ignatius telling those he wrote to stay close to the Bishop, and denouncing those who rejected that the Eucharist was Body and Blood of Christ.
Sixty years after the Resurrection we have Clement writing Corinth exhorting them to reinstate a priest they had expelled (which they did). Clement was Bishop of Rome at the time.
Thirty years after the Resurrection (some scholars say twenty) we have the Didache telling us how to Baptize (including sprinkling if running water isn’t available), and telling of a need to reconcile before receiving the Eucharist so that the “sacrifice” (not memorial meal) may be pure.
In structure, sacrament, etc., the Church then was, as the Church now, Catholic.

Compare this verse Luke wrote in Acts:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

to this statement by Barnabus probably only a decade or so later:

“Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

Acts 2:42 - from the Church’s inception, apostolic tradition included celebrating the Eucharist (the “breaking of the bread”) to fulfill Jesus’ command “do this in remembrance of me.”
Acts 20:28 - Paul charges the Church elders to “feed” the Church of the Lord, that is, with the flesh and blood of Christ.

And around 60 years after Luke penned Acts:

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66.

Hey JustaServant, the following is a good point:

By the time the gospel of John was written, roughly 50 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the present day catholic understanding of the Eucharist was already well established. Surely Jesus’ church was not misguided during the apostolic age, which means the catholic understanding of John 6 must be correct. Looking forward to some non-Catholic responses…

This is a very good point, Joe, and if I might add my own insight here.

I think there is an all-to-common tendency, even among Catholics, to think of the Bible as the source text for all that was believed in the early centuries. We’re reading it backwards when we do that. The New Testament, especially the later writings (Paul’s letters, for instance), was addressed to people who were already holding established beliefs in order to confirm and strengthen them in the faith. So when we see Eucharistic or liturgical themes in Scripture, it is not that the early Church looked to those texts to justify their practice, but the practices had already been around, and the texts were written with those things in mind. Look to some of the more liturgical elements of 1 Corinthians or Hebrews–Paul wasn’t telling the Christians to whom he was writing what to do in great detail, he was writing with their already established practices in mind (and yes, I think Paul wrote Hebrews, but that’s another thread).



Nice work.

Facinating timeline and research JustaServant. And added posts by others I might add:thumbsup:

As is evidenced by the writings at the time:

The Didache (within the lifetime of the Apostle Paul):

Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist: but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation **of your sacrifice **[Matt. 5:23—24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, “Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations” [Mal. 1:11, 14].

Clement (within the lifetime of the Apostle John):

Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4-5 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch (At the turn of the second century, within the 100 year timeline):

Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his blood, and one single altar of sacrifice —even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr (toward the end of the 100 year period):

God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles” [Mal. 1:10-11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist (Dialogue with Trypho 41.

Howdy .read both letters to corinthians and could not find your quote .Was it first or second letter ? In second letter chapter two he writes “but now thru believing the (church) has become numerous”. I quickly scanned Clements two epistles and found nothing sectarian or denominational, but is quite universal (catholic). For instance , he had a perfect chance to speak of purgatory in one chapter ,speaking of flesh and judgement to come and to repent here and now,yet there is no mention of it .He cites only scripture ,and does not cite “tradition” .He exhorts to obeying God and not men ,and cites no church heirarchy to obey. He says the church is spiritual and does not say anything of the "visible “church structure , which i believe your Lumen Gentium #8 stresses.” So, then, brethren, if we do the will of our Father God, we shall be members of the first church, the spiritual,-that which was created before sun and moon. Why do we say the church started 33 a.d ? Do I read Clement wrong for he says it was before the moon and sun ? Anyways , thank-you for exhorting me to read Clement ,almost like reading scripture ,and of course it was in the midst of the apostolic age.

I will just add something about Mark’s gospel…this is somewhat overlooked…that Peter indeed was in rome:

**St. Clement of Alexandria, relying on the authority of “the elder presbyters”, tells us that, when Peter had publicly preached in Rome, many of those who heard him exhorted Mark, as one who had long followed Peter and remembered what he had said, to write it down, and that Mark “composed the Gospel and gave it to those who had asked for it” (Eusebius, Church History VI.14). **

Origen says (ibid., VI, xxv) that Mark wrote as Peter directed him (os Petros huphegesato auto), and Eusebius himself reports the tradition that Peter approved or authorized Mark’s work (Church History II.15). To these early Eastern witnesses may be added, from the West, the author of the Muratorian Fragment, which in its first line almost certainly refers to Mark’s presence at Peter’s discourses and his composition of the Gospel accordingly (Quibus tamen interfuit et ita posuit);


Here is some language from the Apostolic fathers about the papacy.

Pope Clement of Rome
Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. . . . If anyone disobeys the things
which have been said by him [Jesus] through us, let them know that they will involve
themselves in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin and will pray
with entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of
his elect (Letter to the Corinthians 58:2, 59:1[A.D. 95]).

“Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.” Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement, 5 (c. A.D. 96).

Ignatius of Antioch

You [the See of Rome] have envied no one, but others have you taught. I desire only that
what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force (Epistle to the Romans
3:1 [A.D. 110]).

“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love…” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (A.D. 110).

Ignatius was a student of St. John the Evangelist and Clement was a student of Peter and other apostles. Other Early church fathers identify Clement of Rome as the Clement in Philippians 4:3. Pope Clement exercised his authority over the church in Corinth that had a dispute. Clement refers to Peter as the greatest and most righteous pillar of the Church. Ignatius says the See of Rome teaches others. Ignatius desires the see of Rome’s instructions to remain in force. Ignatius says the Church of Rome is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God and is worthy of honor, God, highest happiness, praise, credit, etc.

Here is Clement of Rome on apostolic succession,

“Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the
office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they
appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further
provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry”
(Letter to the Corinthians 44:1 [A.D. 95]).

Here is Polycarp of Smyrna on what sounds to me like sacred tradition,

“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; (1 John 4:3) and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from (Jude 3) the beginning.” (Letter to the Philippians No.7)

Friend you speak my mind.

Thosse writings referenced are only a small percentage availabable to us…I could provide a different list which would give a very different view of Christianity…a view that would be “unrecognizeable” to Catholics.

I fail to see how reading texts from the generation Christ lived in, straight from the people who were there, is “exegesis at its worse”.
The criteria for the conclusion reached does indeed have certain parameters. If you had read the opening paragraph of the OP you would realize this.
The parameter is the first 100 years. Texts from the Church dating from the earlist known NT writing to around 130 AD, exactly 100 years after the Resurection.
If you would like to present other documents, that have been proven by scholars to date within the timeline, please present them. Anything outside of the timeline however is beyond what the criteria requests.

Please do.

Looks like Curious Hobbit answered your question.
BTW, Clement was read in the early church alongside Scripture, and to many was considered part of the NT canon. A good portion of his letter, interestingly, is OT Scripture.

Edifying and educational.


Friend, I am an observer that may offer comment concerning things I agree with and things I do not.

If believing the history of your church as told by your church gives you peace and fulfillment…I rejoice with you.

I do not find the history it presents for itself compelling enough for me to become Catholic.

If you are interested in such “alternative” time lines…perhaps the “Pre-Nicene New Testament” by Robert Price, “Lost Christianities” by Bart Erhman, “Lost Scriptures” by Bart Erhman, “Heresies” by Joan O’Grady, “The Gnostic Gospels” by Eilene Pagels,
“Beyond Belief” by Elain Pagels, “Mythmaker” by Hyam Maccoby, “The Reluctant Parting” by Julie Galumbush may be of assistance.

I have no vested interest in seeking to “change your mind” nor convince you of my position I offer my opinion of the histories I have read, both “conservative” and “liberal”…and I find a much more compelling history than the “faith building story” most religious bodies tell about their own history. The Mormons have a very “tidy” history they present in “History of the Church”…but I don’t give it too much credence…it is a “faith building tool” for the faithful…as is the history of the Catholic church that is presented here…IMO.

Catholicism is but one voice among many that presented it’s history of the early church…it just happens to be the “history” of the belief system that gained prominence over the others.

Pope Benedict has written at least four books on the Early Church:


"Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church"


**“The Apostles” **


**“Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine” **


"The Fathers"

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