A Simple Timeline Proves the Early Church was Catholic

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?

Even a caveman can see it! :rotfl::rotfl::rotfl: (I have been watching entirely too much television.)

This is really cool!!! Most former Protestants who convert will state that is was their study of the early Christian church that brought them to Catholicism. I love the fact that Protestants hold the Bible above all else, without regard that it was not assembled in its current format until around the year 400 AD.

What was the church before (and after) that? Catholic.

Who assembled the Bible in its current format? The Catholic Church.

Therefore, when holding dearly and fervently to “solo scriptura”, our Protestant friends are actually holding to a tradition of men. The tradition of the organization, what books to include (with some exception), even the tradition of the identity of the sacred authors.

The men who established all of this were what kind of men? Catholic.

The conclusion is that to hold to the Bible alone is to hold to Catholic tradition. Which is a good thing.

Keep spreading the word! As Archbishop Sheen said to the Holy Spirit, “You convert them and I’ll instruct them.” :smiley:

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, oh dear…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

Can I use some of your words (cut and paste) some of this info from this thread into a blog post on my blog if I give you credit and your disclaimer such as this:

*JustAServant (From a forum I read) has put together this timeline (you can compare it to others) This timeline is 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.
JustAServant does not claim this timeline to be exact, but its pretty close:

If you would prefer I don’t I won’t.
Sincerely, Deeny :slight_smile:

Feel free, the more info out there the better.
I still await a protestant response.

You should do the first 400 years…that way we can get the Bible in there too. :wink:

I could, but the fundamentalist/evangelical response is ‘well, Constantine changed the Church and all these pagan elements came in after 300 years’. I limit this to one generation (roughly 80 to one hundred years). That way we can see the events through the eyes of the people who actually experienced them, or were the children and grandchildren of those early christians. What were they like? How did they think? What did they experience. To walk in their shoes for a short time and see what it was like from the horse’s mouth. How did they view two most important issues that divide Catholics and evangelicals: the Eucharist and Baptism?
Staying within that first generation reveals much.

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.

Thanks for the timeline, Justa. Extremely helpful!


I’m personally trying to decide if the Catholic Church is the church i should trust. Can anyone fill me in on when the papacy is first mentioned in the writings of the early church fathers? Or does anyone know who is the first church father who referred to himself as Pope?

Thanks in advance.


Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, in ‘Beginning Apologetics 1 (www.catholicapologetics.com) say;

“**Please note that the Early Church always accepted the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church. Around AD 80, the Church of Corinth deposed it’s lawful leaders. The fourth bishop of Rome, Pope Clement I, was called to settle the matter even though St. John the Apostle was still alive and much closer to Corinth than was Rome. **

St Irenaus, who was taught by St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John the Apostle), stresses that Christians must be united to the Church of Rome in order to maintain the Apostolic Tradition. He then lists all the bishops of Rome up to his time.

For 250 years the Roman Emperors tried to destroy Christianity through persecution. In the first 200 years of Christianity, every Pope but one was martyred-the Romans certainly knew who the head of the Church was!”

St. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110) appointed by St. Peter also recognizes Rome’s Primacy.

Also the books by William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, (Collegeville, MN; Liturgical Press 1970) go into much more detail.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!


Mark gives some excellant examples above. The Papacy was one of the last obstacles for me in my reversion back to the Church. It was also my love for history and my utter distain for ‘revisionism’.

I find it interesting that no Protestant has challenged this timeline. I suppose the reason why (I know it would have been mine back in the day) is because they pull the New Testament writings out of history as if they were separated from them. The early church never thought that way. The writings of the Apostles and the Gospels were part of who they were, not separated from them. They also accepted writings not found in the NT. Many churches read excerpts from Clement and the Shepherd in this period.
One could easily add non-christian writings to the list as well to show the first generation early church was Catholic.
I still await the Trail of Blooders to explain this.

Excellent work!

This is nice work, and I am glad to see you tempered it with an understanding that many of the dates listed are not certain dates. They could be off by 10 to 20 years in some instances.

The only thing this list seems to imply by the listing order is that early churches had their hands on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark before Paul’s letters. Most scholars I’ve read believe Paul’s letters were circulated widely first, as much as 10 years before they ever got a copy of one of the Gospel books. For what you are trying to show, I guess that hardly matters though.

Still, very nice job.

What is the historical evidence that Paul’s first Journey was 10 + years after his conversion ? We allow 3 years in desert … but, where would he of been for the next 7 years, if not starting his life’s work sooner than this, among the Gents ?

Also, the date for the Didache seems late by a decade ? What is your source on what you are showing ?

Put a few footnotes off to the right of this main column … to justify your key events.

This timeline certainly does points up why God had Paul on a mission to Roman, with some R & R in prison [house arrest]. A very productive literary period for him and the Church.

Thanks Mark. If you (or anyone else) has the orginal sources (exact quotes) of Irenaus and Polycarp, i’d be grateful. They are, afterall, closer to the Apostles than the others, and easier to accept for a Protestant use-to-be like me.


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