Church History and Time Line
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30: Crucifixion of Jesus; Pentecost
35: Stephen martyred; Paul converted
46: Paul begins missionary journeys
48: Council of Jerusalem
57: Paul’s Letter to the Romans
64: Fire of Rome; Nero launches persecutions
65: Peter and Paul are executed; martyrdom of the church’s two greatest apostles forces church leadership into a new era.
70: Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus
110: Ignatius of Antioch martyred
150: Justin Martyr’s First Apology, the work of the first major scholarapologist, makes Christianity reasonable to thinking pagans.
150: [Marcion’s canon] rejects Old Testament
155: Polycarp martyred
172: Montanist movement begins
180: Irenaeus’s Against Heresies leads the fight against the powerful Gnostic heresy.
196: Tertullian begins writing, with his legal-trained mind, major writings that promote purity of life and doctrine.
215: Origen begins writing brilliant works that “provided a foundation for the great ecumenical councils to come.”
230: the earliest known public churches are built, signaling a shift in Christians’ life and practice.
248: Cyprian elected bishop of Carthage
250: Empire-wide persecution under Emperor Decius causes thousands to fall away and produces a major schism in the church.
270: Anthony takes up solitude, attracting many to asceticism and prayer and paving the way for monasticism.
303: “Great Persecution” begins under Diocletian
312: Conversion of Constantine
312: The Donatist Schism, over treatment of apostates from the Great Persecution, challenges thinking about the church.
313: “Edict of Milan”
323: Eusebius completes Ecclesiastical History
325: First Council of Nicea
341: Ulphilas, translator of Gothic Bible, becomes bishop
342: Ulphilas’s mission to Goths
343: Ulphilas’s Gothic Bible
358: Basil the Great founds a monastery, laying foundations for religious communities ever after.
367: Athanasius’s letter defines New Testament canon
381: Christianity made state religion of Roman Empire
381: First Council of Constantinople ratifies the Nicean Creed and condemns Apollinarianism, safeguarding a high view of Christ.
386: Augustine converts to Christianity
390: Ambrose defies Emperor Theodosius, refusing him Communion after his brutal killing of thousands in Thessalonica; the act influences church-state relations for generations.
398: Chrysostom consecrated bishop of Constantinople
405: Jerome completes the Vulgate
410: Rome sacked by Visigoths
431: Council of Ephesus
432: Patrick’s mission to Ireland breaks heathenism and fosters Christianity, leading to a flourishing Celtic church.
440: Leo the Great consecrated bishop of Rome
445: [Valentinian’s Edict] strengthens primacy of Rome
451: Council of Chalcedon
500: Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite writes
524: Boethius completes Consolation of Philosophy
529: Justinian’s Code is published; it becomes the basis for later canon law in the West, thus shaping medieval society.
540: Benedict writes his monastic Rule
563: Columba establishes mission community on Iona
590: Gregory the Great becomes pope: The “first of the medieval popes” takes on civil power and lays the foundations for the papal state. He also commissions, in 597, Augustine’s mission to England, which converts the pagan Angles.
597: Ethelbert of Kent converted
600: [Gregory’s chants]
622: Muhammad’s hegira: birth of Islam
650: Iconography flourishes
663: Synod of Whitby decisively aligns the English church with Rome for the next nine centuries.
698: Lindisfarne Gospels
716: Boniface’s mission to the Germans spreads Christianity to pagan northern Europe, preparing the way for the later Holy Roman Empire.
726: Controversy over icons begins in Eastern church
730: First known church organ
731: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History published
732: Battle of Tours: Frankish general Charles Martel halts the seemingly unstoppable Muslim invasion, keeping Europe under Christian control.
750: Donation of Constantine written about this time
754: Pepin III’s donation helps found papal states
781: Alcuin becomes royal adviser to Charles
787: 2nd Council of Nicea settles icon controversy
800: Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor: With the help of his adviser, Alcuin, the seven-foot-tall king brings Europe political unity, a stronger church, and a renaissance of learning.
843: Treaty of Verdun divides Carolingian Empire
861: East-West conflict over Photius begins
862: Cyril and Methodius begin mission to Slavs
910: the monastery at Cluny is founded, the genesis of a reform movement that spreads to over 1,000 communities and revitalizes monastic life for hundreds of years.
965: First English polyphony
988: Christianization of “Russia”
1054: East-West Split
1077: Emperor submits to Pope over investiture
1093: Anselm named archbishop of Canterbury, a post from which he writes lasting works on the Atonement and proofs for God’s existence.
1095: First Crusade launched by Council of Clermont
1115: Bernard founds monastery at Clairvaux: The “father of Western mysticism” strengthens the monastic tradition.
1122: Concordat of Worms ends investiture controversy
1141: [Abelard’]s teaching condemned
1141: Hildegard of Bingen begins writing
1150: Mystery plays flourish
1150: University of Paris and Oxford founded
1170: Thomas Becket murdered
1173: Waldensian movement begins
1208: Francis of Assisi renounces wealth in order to preach a simple, passionate gospel, and later founds the Franciscan Order.
1215: Innocent III calls the Fourth Lateran Council, which climaxes the rule of the medieval church’s most influential pope and defines transubstantiation.
1215: Magna Carta
1220: Dominic establishes Order of Preachers, who travel barefoot, teach, and convert heretics.
1232: Gregory IX appoints first “inquisitors”
1260: Chartres Cathedral
1272: Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae
1302: Unam Sanctam proclaims papal supremacy
1309: Papacy begins “Babylonian” exile in Avignon
1321: Dante’s Divine Comedy gives masterful poetic expression to medieval concepts of heaven, hell, and purgatory, and shapes later thought.
1348: Black Death
1370: Catherine of Siena’s Letters, a treasure of Western mysticism, are begun.
1373: Julian of Norwich receives her revelations
1378: Great Papal Schism begins
1380: John Wyclif supervises Bible translation, leaving the first complete English Bible.
1413: Hus burned at stake
1414: Council of Constance begins
1415: Hus burned at stake
1418: [Thomas á Kempis] writes The Imitation of Christ
1431: Joan of Arc burned at stake
1453: Constantinople falls to the Turks, ending a millennium of Christianity in the Eastern Roman ("Byzantine") Empire.
1456: Gutenberg produces first printed Bible
1476: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
1479: The Spanish Inquisition, under Ferdinand and Isabella, begins against baptized Jews and Moors.
1488: First complete Hebrew Old Testament
1492: Columbus lands in Western hemisphere
1497: Savonarola excommunicated
1506: Work begins on new St. Peter’s in Rome
1512: Michelangelo completes Sistine Chapel frescoes
1516: Erasmus publishes Greek New Testament
1517: Luther posts his [Ninety-Five Theses]
1518: Ulrich Zwingli is called as people’s priest in Zurich, where he begins his radical break with Catholic practices and lays the foundation of Reformed theology.
1521: Diet of Worms
1522: Luther’s German New Testament published
1524: The [Peasants’ Revolt] erupts in Germany
1525: Anabaptist movement begins
1525: Tyndale’s New Testament published
1527: Schleitheim Confession of Faith
1529: Colloquy of Marburg: Here, however, Zwingli and Luther’s differing views on the Lord’s Supper lead to separate Reformed and Lutheran churches.
1530: Augsburg Confession, written largely by Philipp Melanchthon, definitively expresses Lutheran beliefs.
1534: Act of Supremacy; Henry VIII heads Eng. church
1535: Coverdale Bible
1536: Calvin publishes first edition of Institutes
1536: Menno Simons baptized as Anabaptist
1540: Ignatius Loyola receives approval for the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit “soldiers of Christ” who help preserve and extend Catholicism.
1545: Council of Trent begins
1549: Book of Common Prayer, the service book of the Church of England, is drafted by Thomas Cranmer.
1549: Xavier begins mission to Japan
1555: Latimer and Ridley burned at stake
1555: Peace of Augsburg
1559: John Knox returns to Scotland and, despite being outlawed, champions a bloodless Reformation, secured the following year.
1560: Geneva Bible
1562: Genevan Psalter
1562: Heidelberg Catechism
1563: First text of [Thirty-Nine Articles] issued
1563: [Foxe’s Book of Martyrs] published
1565: Teresa of Avila writes The Way of Perfection
1572: [St. Bartholomew]’s Day Massacre
1577: Formula of Concord
1582: Ricci and Ruggieri begin mission in China
1588: English defeat Spanish Armada
1589: Moscow becomes independent patriarchate
1598: The Edict of Nantes officially ends persecution of French Protestants (Huguenots), whose years of suffering included the infamous [St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre] in 1572.
1603: Arminius appointed professor at Leyden
1605: Shakespeare’s MacBeth
1609: Separatist pastor John Smyth baptizes himself and about forty adults, the start of modern Baptist denominations.
1611: King James Version of Bible published
1618: Synod of Dort begins
1618: [Thirty Years’ War] begins
1620: Mayflower Compact drafted
1628: Jan Comenius flees
1633: Galileo is forced by Rome to recant his belief in the Copernican theory (that the earth revolves around the sun); tensions heighten between Christianity and modern science.
1636: Harvard College founded
1636: Roger Williams founds Providence, R.I.
1642: English Civil War
1646: Westminster Confession, the definitive statement of Presbyterian beliefs, is drafted. 1648: the Peace of Westphalia ends the Thirty Years’ War, settling European wars of religion and effectively ending the papacy’s political control over large areas.
1647: George Fox begins to preach
1648: Peace of Westphalia ends [Thirty Years’ War]
1649: Cambridge Platform
1652: George Fox founds Society of Friends ("Quakers"), gathering 50,000 followers in just eight years.
1653: Cromwell named Lord Protector
1654: Pascal has definitive conversion experience
1667: [Milton’s Paradise Lost]
1668: Rembrandt paints Return of the Prodigal Son
1675: Jakob Philipp Specner’s Pia Desideria (Pious Desires) launches the influential Pietist movement.
1678: Jailed Baptist preacher John Bunyan writes [Pilgrim’s Progress]: next to the Bible, the most-popular English-language book of all time.
1682: Penn founds Pennsylvania
1687: Newton publishes Principia Mathematica
1689: Toleration Act in England
1707: Bach publishes first work
1707: Isaac Watts’s Hymns and Spiritual Songs, with 600 hymns including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” moves the church from nearly exclusive singing of metrical psalms to the hymn singing we know today.
1729: Jonathan Edwards becomes pastor at Northampton
1732: First Moravian missionaries, spurred by an earlier religious awakening in their small community of Brethren, launch the modern missionary movement.
1735: George Whitefield is converted and soon begins dramatic [open-air evangelism] in the U.S. and England. 1780: Robert Raikes begins Sunday school to teach poor local children, creating a lasting institution.
1738: Bach’s Mass in B Minor
1738: John and Charles Wesley’s evangelical conversions
1739: George Whitefield starts open-air preaching
1740: Great Awakening peaks
1742: First production of [Handel’s Messiah]
1759: [Voltaire’]s Candide
1771: Francis Asbury sent to America
1773: American Revolution
1773: Jesuits suppressed (until 1814)
1779: Newton and Cowper publish Olney Hymns
1780: Robert Raikes begins his Sunday school
1781: Kant publishes Critique of Pure Reason
1784: Wesley provides for “Conference of Methodists”
1789: French Revolution begins
1789: The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, and religion to Americans; the French Revolution leads later to the Festival of Reason and de-Christianization of France.
1793: Festival of Reason (de-Christianization of France)
1793: William Carey sails for India
1799: Schleiermacher publishes Lectures on Religion
1801: Concordat between Napoleon and Pius VII
1804: British and Foreign Bible Society formed
1804: Napoleon emperor
1806: Samuel Mills leads Haystack Prayer Meeting
1807: William Wilberforce’s efforts lead to the abolition of the British slave trade.
1810: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
1811: Campbells begin Restoration Movement
1812: Adoniram Judson begins mission trip
1816: Judsons sail for Asia
1816: Richard Allen becomes bishop of the new African Methodist Episcopal church, which later publishes the first African-American newspaper and magazine.
1817: Elizabeth Fry organizes relief in Newgate Prison
1819: Channing issues Unitarian Christianity
1825: American Tract Society
1827: [J. N. Darby] founds the Plymouth Brethren
1833: John Keble’s sermon launches the Oxford Movement, encouraging high-church worship, authority, and tradition within the Church of England.
1834: Mueller opens Scriptural Knowledge Institute
1835: Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals is published, explaining the “scientific” methods the revivalist used in converting 500,000 people.
1836: Mueller opens orphanage
1840: Livingstone sails for Africa
1844: First Adventist churches formed
1844: [Søren Kierkegaard]’s Philosophical Fragments is published; his works attack formalized Christianity in favor of the personal leap of faith.
1845: John Henry Newman becomes Roman Catholic
1845: Phoebe Palmer writes The Way of Holiness, spurring the Holiness movement, while strengthening women’s ministries and encouraging the Prayer Meeting Revival.
1848: Marx publishes Communist Manifesto
1851: Harriet Beecher Stowe releases [Uncle Tom’s Cabin]
1854: Immaculate Conception made dogma
1854: Spurgeon becomes pastor of [New Park St. Church]
1855: [D. L. Moody] is converted and goes on to become the greatest evangelist of his era.
1857: Prayer Meeting Revival begins in New York
1859: Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species
1859: Japan reopens to foreign missionaries
1860: [U.S. Civil War] begins
1864: Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua
1864: Syllabus of Errors, issued by Pope Pius IX, rejects modern societal trends, including liberalism and socialism.
1865: [J. Hudson Taylor] founds China Inland Mission
1870: The First Vatican Council declares papal infallibility (when the pope speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith or morals).
1873: Moody and Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos
1878: William and Catherine Booth found the Salvation Army, soon a worldwide thrust for social and spiritual salvation.
1879: Frances Willard becomes president of WCTU
1880: Abraham Kuyper starts Free University
1880: Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov
1885: Berlin Congress spurs African independent churches
1885: Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis
1886: Student Volunteer Movement begins, ultimately stirring 20,000 college students to become Christian missionaries.
1895: Freud publishes first work on psychoanalysis
1896: Billy Sunday begins leading revivals
1901: Speaking in tongues at Parham’s Bible School
1906: Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus
1906: The Azusa Street Revival begins in Los Angeles under William Seymour’s leadership, spreading Pentecostalism.
1908: Federal Council of Churches forms
1910: International Missionary Conference begins
1910: The Edinburgh Missionary Conference, an interdenominational gathering chaired by [John R. Mott], births the modern ecumenical movement.
1910: The Fundamentals, a twelve-paperback series presenting conservative doctrine, is launched, signaling the rise of fundamentalism.
1912: Social Creed of the Churches adopted
1914: World War I begins
1917: Bolshevik Revolution
1919: Karl Barth’s Commentary on Romans rocks the theological world by breaking with liberalism for a “neoorthodoxy.”
1920: U.S. women’s suffrage
1924: First Christian radio broadcasts
1929: Great Depression
1931: [C. S. Lewis]’s conversion gives rise to numerous theological and apologetic books that explain Christianity to twentieth-century people.
1934: Barmen Declaration
1934: Wycliffe Bible Translators begins under Cam Townsend, providing Scriptures for hundreds of language groups with no Bible.
1935: [Eliot’s Murder] in the Cathedral
1938: Kristallnacht accelerates Holocaust
1939: World War II begins
1940: First Christian television broadcasts are made.
1941: Niebuhr’s Nature and Destiny of Man
1941: Rudolf Bultmann calls for demythologization of the New Testament message into terms acceptable for moderns.
1942: National Association of Evangelicals forms
1945: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
1945: Bonhoeffer executed
1945: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison call for costly discipleship in a difficult world.
1946: Revised Standard Version New Testament
1947: Dead Sea Scrolls discovered
1948: The World Council of Churches is formally constituted, uniting nearly all major Western denominations.
1949: [L. A. Crusade] catapults Billy Graham to prominence, and with ensuing crusades he preaches to more people than any evangelist in history.
1950: Assumption of Mary made dogma
1950: Missionaries forced to leave China
1950: Mother Teresa founds Missionaries of Charity
1951: Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison
1954: United Methodists grant full ordination to women, signaling increasing leadership for women in mainline and other churches.
1960: Charismaticrenewal advances following national attention given to Episcopal rector Dennis Bennett’s experience.
1962: Vatican II opens
1963: Martin Luther King leads March on Washington
1966: Chinese Cultural Revolution
1968: Medellin Conference advances liberation theology
1971: The Living Bible
1974: Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization
1979: John Paul II’s first visit to Poland
1985: Gorbachev General Secretary of Soviet Communist Party