65—Peter and Paul are executed; martyrdom of the church’s two greatest apostles forces church leadership into a new era. 150—Justin Martyr’s First Apology, the work of the first major scholar-apologist, makes Christianity reasonable to thinking pagans. 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. 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. 312—The Donatist Schism, over treatment of apostates from the Great Persecution, challenges thinking about the church.

Christian Empire

358—Basil the Great founds a monastery, laying foundations for religious communities ever after. 381—First Council of Constantinople ratifies the Nicean Creed and condemns Apollinarianism, safeguarding a high view of Christ. 390—Ambrose defies Emperor Theodosius, refusing him Communion after his brutal killing of thousands in Thessalonica; the act influences church-state relations for generations. 432—Patrick’s mission to Ireland breaks heathenism and fosters Christianity, leading to a flourishing Celtic church. 529—Justinian’s Code is published; it becomes the basis for later canon law in the West, thus shaping medieval society.

Middle Ages

590—Gregory the Great becomes pope: The “first of the medieval popes” ...

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