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As the first decades of the first millennium passed and those who had been contemporaries of Jesus and the Apostles died, Christians realized the importance of recording and gathering together oral traditions of Jesus' sayings and life and letters written by the Apostles. Fewer and few people were still living who could speak authoritatively as apostles or even as those who knew the apostles.
Polycarp of Smyrna
Polycarp opposed heresy and, in Rome, converted many Marcionite and Valentinian Gnostics to orthodoxy. He often described heretics with harsh words. For example, he called Marcion "the first-born of Satan."
Just before his martyrdom, Polycarp stated that he had been a Christian for 86 years. "Thus his career spanned that critical era of the Church's development which witnessed, after the passing of its apostolic founders and missionaries, the menacing growth of the persecution of the Roman State and the emergence of the Docetic and Gnostic heresies...." 1
1. Cyril C. Richardson, ed. "Introduction, The Letter of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna to the Philippians," Early Christian Fathers (New York: Touchstone, 1996), p. 121.
Another issue that emerged was diversity of teachings and beliefs. Given that Christians lived throughout the Roman Empire and even beyond its bounds, different contextual variations of Christianity developed. Controversies arose within the Christian community about which teachings and which written materials were accepted. As a result, doctrinal statements or "rules of faith" were developed and affirmed as "orthodox" -- right teaching. Those teachings not considered orthodox, such as Gnosticism, were defined as heretical. The process of canonization also began.
Learn about the some of the ways early Christians interpreted the Bible Meet Philo of Alexandria, a famous Jewish interpreter of Scriptures who used the allegorical method and influenced Christian interpreters such as Clement and Origen of Alexandria.
1. Learn about the early Christian decision to accept the Hebrew scriptures and the emerging theology of the Old and New Covenants. Meet Irenaeus and Tertullian.
2. Between Jesus' life and the year 313, the church went through many changes. Learn the historical background for some of the issues of authority discussed on this page. Meet Ignatius, bishop of Antioch.
3.Check out Church History Timeline: From Jesus to Constantine: 30--313
Next Page: Interpretation and the Bible: 30--313
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