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Christian History




The value of Church history and how it can aid in your understanding of people and the Christian experience. What implications does this have for ministry if any?

Luke 1:3 [KJV] It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed”. Theophilus wisely asked to know the historical truth about Jesus and Luke did not say he should not know the history of the church but instead wanted to make sure that what Theophilus was taught as a Christian matched the truth about Jesus.



Understanding our past helps understand our present position. Church history is extremely valuable to the Christian and the non-believer because the people, writings, artifacts, drawings etc become invaluable recorded proof of the existence of God, the Messiah and Christianity. It establishes the foundation and truth of the Christian faith throughout every new generation of criticism. Many non-believers require objective, evidential reason to believe rather than blind faith. Church history provides such objective evidence not only for the non-believer but for the believer also. “Church history, in particular, is an opportunity for self-reflection and, indeed, for self-correction”. [1] John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James III


Church history begins with Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Without the God-man Jesus, the Church would not exist. Therefore, it must be concluded that the Church only has a history because Jesus the God-man came as the Christ (the Messiah). It tells us who the Messiah is, why he came, how he was identified, what he did and his coming again. Also without this information documented, persons born from the 2nd century and beyond would not be as trust worthy without the written history. They like Theophilus would question the authenticity of the gospel. Oral tradition is not as reliable as written history and even texts can be very untrustworthy especially in today’s scrutinizing world. Without the recorded history you could not defend the bible as the inerrant word of God in a world where everyone is claiming they have the truth. Even with the historical proof or record there is much contention about what is true. Without this valuable information the church would certainly be hard pressed to explain the confusion.


Without Church history we could not see why and how God intervenes in man’s affairs through the ages (2000 years). We can safely say God is not some being that dropped off his children on a planet and did not look back neither cares what happens to them. The church history proves otherwise. Also we would not be aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding the church and how he influenced leaders to accomplish his goal.


History makes us certain whose goals and purposes are being accomplished and why man and God are working in harmony. That God and man have purposes and man’s purpose and destiny is intrinsically tied to God’s purpose. In the process of accomplishing God’s goals and purpose on this earth which to grow a maturing church or prepare his bride, the church has to evangelise the world first and foremost.

It is through this mission to accomplish the vision that the church moved from local to regional to international i.e. it travelled crossing many geographical boundaries to many nations and in doing so reached many cultural groups and impacted many religions. There is no doubt God uses mankind to accomplish his purpose. Bruce Shelley warns, “As a consequence of our ignorance concerning Church history, we find believers vulnerable to the appeal of cults...”. [3]


Through the study of the history of the church we also learnt that methods of communicating the faith changed over time. The church eventually changed its means of communicating from oral to relying heavily on the written word. Initially when Jesus and the apostles were with the church there was no need to document the knowledge of God and the events surrounding the church and God. However fortunately some of the church leaders wrote letters to churches in order to document the truth and keep it for teaching to other churches. When it became clear that the firsthand information concerning the truth of the gospel was being lost due the death of the first generation teachers and owing to the emergence of false teachers and teachings, the later church leaders saw it fit to consolidate the truth into document forms for preserving it. This process collecting evidence and preserving it also meant that some teachings and documented writings had to be scrutinized in order to separate truth from fiction. We understand then the reason for having a criteria which was created called the canon which was finalized by the majority of church leaders was necessary. Why the Canonical books and the King James Bible are different in terms of numbers of books can be traced to the reformation. Creeds or statements of one’s faith were also formed to make clear under certain terms what the Christian believed. We see the motives behind the formation of the canon and the king James and why they are denominations today. We understand how theological differences were once called Heresies but today many are called denominations. Without accurate knowledge of this history there will be utter confusion.


One valuable lesson we can learn is that Church members / believers can be apostate. Not only can their faith be tested but some have actually abandoned their faith. The reasons for apostasy varies from sin hardened hearts to threats of death. The later also revealed that God’s church can suffer and have to endure all kinds of hardships and persecution including death of its members. According to Cairns, “Persecution has generally purified and strengthened the church...” It separates the true believer from the merely professing Christian. [2] Cairns, Earle E. Martyrdom of the Christians by Roman leaders lasted for over 280 years. The Martyrdom though it was a thorn in the side of the church and continually exposed the church to the possibility of extinction, had the opposite effect. Those who died set the model behaviour for many coming after them to emulate. True Christians looked forward to and expected persecution and death as their head Jesus did. The point was made that persecution is not only must be the experience of the church but we must learn to embrace it and not run from it. Along with apostasy the church faced heresy by which we learn that believers can and have created their own doctrine and pass it off as truth and misled many. For example the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Gnostic, Agnostic, the Church of Latter Day Saints and many more. Over the centuries from the time of the apostles there were heresies that were addressed by the apostles Paul and John. Joseph Smith in 1900’s declared that a so called angel spoke to him and he started a following in the name of Christianity. The Islam religion was started in similar fashioned with a so called angel speaking to Muhammed and he documented all he was supposedly told. Even the Roman Catholic Church which claims to be the rightful leaders of the universal Church of Christ for the past 2000 years since Jesus’s Apostle Peter, they had been corrupted into creating a politico-religious system that invented doctrines that were not scriptural.


We can see how the church defended itself through God’s word, the revelation of the spirit and testimonies against anti-Christ persecutions. It teaches us the error and the mistakes of past generations of believers. We saw how apologists and polemists emerged in times of persecution to protect the church and the truth from distortion. The Apostles demonstrated the importance of defending the faith. The two major reasons for defending the faith were external persecution and internal divisions on doctrine. Subsequent to these defenders responding decisively to protect the truth we see the value of speaking boldly for our faith in

the Christ. It strengthens disciple’s faith planting deeper roots so that they are not carried away by every whim and fancy that the devil may concoct and the arguments for faith put forward also convict non-believers. How can a Christian judge what is the truth. The 2000years of church history provides with information needed to do so. There are many rich teachings that countered false teachings that help us know the truth.


As well as humbling us because our generation suffers from pride-filled perspectives and attitudes especially when reading about the courage and commitment of Christians to serve Jesus unto death puts our own attitude and efforts into a correct perspective in the light of the “easy-living” approach of many of us Christians today.


Church history informs us of the fulfilling of Prophesies and the prophesies yet to be fulfilled in the future that bring hope to the Church. The showing of the divine hand in the past answers the question what was God doing for the past 2000 years. We understand that we are not on an island but a part of something that existed for many years. It reveals those missing years between coming of the Christ and we who are alive today. It reveals the fulfillment of prophesy which proves God is real and his word to be an infallible and irrefutable truth. We learn of God’s active involvement in the life of the church throughout history. As the psalmist (Psalm 44:1*, NIV) declares, “We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.” The Church was not dead nor abandoned by its builder nor left on the hands of men and it provides us a better understanding of God.


Church history has evidenced that ministry is spirit led and cannot be treated likely. Having understood whose goals and purpose we are fulfilling (the Almighty God) we can’t treat it with scant regard. For the work of God to be effective in this world through men many had to be under the anointing of the Holy Spirit otherwise the Church would have been a product of man. Church history tells us that the Messiah came to minister to us and that we have to minister to others. He gave us this ministry of reconciling others to him and discipling the church in spirit living until he comes.


Cited works


[1] Church History, Volume 2 by John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James III


[2] Cairns, Earle E.. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church (Kindle Locations 9851-9852). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


[3] Church History in Plain Language: Fourth Edition Paperback – December 10, 2013

by Bruce Shelley



Brian Edwards

The pseudepigrapha (false writing).

They are so different from the apostolic letters.

not one of them appears among the book used at scripture by the early churches.

all were written far too late to have come from the hand of an apostle.

many of the details in them are hopelessly inaccurate.


The forger of the letter of Herod did not realize that the Herod he wrote the letter from was not the same Herod of the time of Jesus. a clear historical forgery.

Five times pool ensure that the readers check to make sure he wrote the letters by referring to his signature at the end of the letter.


What made it book scripture.

Apostle- was it written by an apostle.

Authentic- they have the ring of truth. [The internal witness of the text who strong evidence for its canonicity].

Ancient- it used from the earliest times. [The church fathers rejected much of the ratings because there were two new (not old) to be apostolic.  Athanasius in 300s AD listed the canonical books he said “these are the books received by us as belonging to the canon). In other words these were the books in use across the Roman Empire].

Accepted- Were most of the Churches using it? [almost all of the testament books (at least 22 of 27 for sure) were in use probably before 150 AD].

Accurate- is it going form to the orthodox teaching on the churches. There was widespread agreement across the Christian churches as to the content of the message. Irenaeus asked if a particular rating was consistent with what the church taught. This is what ruled out the gnostic ratings because they were contrary to the consistent teaching of the church.

It is believed that the manuscripts we have are dated hundreds of years after the originals were written therefore this must mean that we have thousands of errors. but this is not the case. The Dead sea scrolls 1947. Keep one contained an entire prophecy of Isaiah it was dated around 150 BC. The earliest copy (Masaretic) that we had at that point was dated 950Ad about 1000 years between the two.


What were the earliest cannons.

150 AD muratorian Canon—24 of 27 books

180 AD irenaeus of lions 23 of 27

240 AD origen of Alexandria 27

325 AD eusebius of Caesarea –22+5

367 AD athanasius of Alexandria 27

397 AD council of Carthage

These are just the cannons or collections of books but before they were collected there were circulated earlier long before 150 AD.


Why'd it take so long?

The originals were not written in one volume.

Paul did not write all of his book at the same time in one place to one church. For example, Paul went to one country I wrote a letter two years later after visiting another country another letter maybe three years later he visited another country I wrote another letter and so on and so on so over a number of years maybe 15 to 20 years of ministry Paul would have written all of his letters. if you were to collect all of Paul's letters you would have to wait until 15 to 20 years hard pass before you can get them all. whole did not know his letters were going to be collected as book.

The originals were scattered across the whole empire.

The Christian world was scattered as far as Britain Africa Europe Asia Arabia. so obviously it would have taken time together all of the apostles writings into one book.

Scrolls were huge.

Luke’s gospel would require 30 feet of scroll 200 ft for the whole new testament. So to put all of that even in a book (Codex) would have been too huge and heavy to carry around.

1st century Christians expected the immediate return of Christ.

So because of this no one plan for the church to be wrong for a long time and therefore no one had the foresight to think to collect and preserve the writings of the apostles. it was only after the persecution that came after the 68 AD that the preservation of the Gospel message in Church writings would it become necessary.

No supreme bishop or Head Church.

For 500 years the church did not have a supreme Bishop who told them which books belonged to the Canon. Later in the Church of Rome decided to throw its vent around the Canon was already in place.

The early leaders assumed the authority of the gospels and the apostles.

No one had to tell the church that they had to quote from the letters of the apostles and the gospels their authority was self-evident. Although the apostles did not write mark Luke Jude and Hebrews it was agreed by the church that when papias who was alive at the time of the apostles said that mark group under the guidance of Peter and look with a written under the guidance of Paul. Jude was the brother of Jesus and it was common although not universal to accept Paul is the writer of Hebrews.


 How early are our oldest copies of the New Testament?


New Testament (one volume) -- 300 years after apostles. Before this time the books were all scattered however some were already collected but finally the 27 books of the New Testament work related as one volume. Codex Sinaiticus (Sinai book-Monastery in Sinai) is the earliest complete volume of the NT dated 350 AD.

Josephus Jewish antiquities-- 1300 years after his death. (earliest complete source volume)

Tacitus Augustus to Nero--- 800 years after his death. (earliest complete source volume)

Julius Caesar's Gallic wars-- 900 years after his death. (earliest complete source volume)

People do not say or by the way the earliest source for Julius Caesar is 900 years after his death therefore there will be thousands of errors and therefore we cannot trust anything that is said about the emperors of Rome or Julius Caesar's war.

Chester Beatty Papyry-- 15 New Testament books (not a complete volume) soon after AD 200. This means that books were already being collected in the early 2nd century.

John Rylands Papyrus (Egypt).—5 verses from John 18 around AD 125. It was from a Codex (book) because it was written on both sides. Scrolls were written on one side.

Qumran (dead sea 1955 discovery) fragment 7Q5-- air fragment from mark 6:52- 53? The cave was sealed in AD 68. And no one entered it again until 1955.

So all of this tells us that those critics who said that the gospel was wishful thinking buy a 3rd century church can be dismissed.


Why some books were left out of the Bible. (why the eyewitness accounts)

If a 100yrs from now you had the task of researching the covid19 experience in Barbados. You have to come up with a system of compare them all. 

[1] you prefer the eyewitnesses account over someone in Russia who wrote about Barbados. So immediately we have an elimination. Is this a fair way to eliminate some and keep some.

[2] if you found documents that were written during the virus, 40yrs or 100yrs after, which one will you prefer? The earliest ones right. Is this a fair way to determine which sources are in and which out of the Bible? Yes it is.

How did we get theCanon
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