c. 140 Valentinus begins teaching Gnostic views in Rome

144 Marcion is excommunicated for Gnostic-like views

c. 175 Basilides espouses Gnostic teachings in Alexandria

c. 180 Irenaeus writes Against the Heresies, opposing Gnosticism

c. 450 Gnostic sects diminish

Forms of Gnosticism return with Paulicians (800s) and Albigensians (1200s)


c. 155 Polycarp and others from Asia Minor advocate Nisan 14 as date of Easter

c. 190 Pope Victor insists on Sunday observance and tries to stamp out Quartodecimanism (“14th-ism”), though Irenaeus advocates tolerance

325 Council of Nicea accepts Alexandrian method of determining Easter

400 Rome begins using Alexandrian method

In the Middle Ages, the Celtic church (in 625) and the church in Gaul (in the 800s) join the West in adopting the Alexandrian method


c. 157 Montanus begins prophesying that the Heavenly Jerusalem will soon descend in Phrygia, in Asia Minor

170s Montanism develops ecstatic and ascetic practices

c. 190 Montanism condemned by church councils in Asia Minor

c. 207 Tertullian converts to Montanism

c. 400 Montanism wanes but survives in pockets

Though severly persecuted by Justinian I (483–565), Montanism survives into the 800s


c. 190s Monarchianism (emphasizing God’s monarchia, “unity”—not the three persons) spreads

c. 200 Noetus condemned at Rome for Patripassianism (“the father suffers-ism”), the teaching that the Father suffered as the Son

268 Council of Antioch deposes Paul of Samosata and condemns Sabellianism (i.e., modalism: Father, Son, and Spirit are temporary manifestations of the same being)

By the early 300s, most Monarchianists become Arians


249–250 Decian persecution causes many Christians to “lapse,” i.e., deny the faith

251 Novatian teaches that the lapsed should not be readmitted to the church; some Christians admit the lapsed on easy terms

252 Cyprian argues for middle view: penance for the lapsed

255–256 African bishops insist on rebaptism of heretics and schismatics; Rome disagrees

311 Donatists refuse to accept new bishop of Carthage because he “handed over” the Scriptures under persecution; they consecrate a rival bishop

314 Council of Arles condemns Donatism, which insists on unwavering loyalty of church members

411 Donatism significantly weakened by government condemnation

Donatism survives in pockets in Africa until Islam conquers the region (late 600s)


c. 318 Arius’s views, that Jesus is not divine, gains popularity; Athanasius writes On the Incarnation, affirming the full deity and humanity of Jesus

325 Council of Nicea, called by Emperor Constantine, condemns Arians and affirms the divinity of Christ

328–361 Temporary triumph of Arianism; period of factions and confusion; Nicene bishops, like Athanasius, are deposed and banished

337 New Eastern emperor, Constantius, openly embraces Arianism

c. 340 First conversions of Goths by Arian Ulfilas

361 Valentian, an orthodox, becomes Western emperor, and orthodoxy begins to recover lost ground

381 Theodosius, an orthodox, becomes sole emperor; Council of Constantinople affirms Nicene orthodoxy; Cappadocian Fathers put final touches on Trinitarian doctrine

390s Arianism still alive among the Goths and other Germanic peoples

Arianism disappears in the 700s through gradual conversion to orthodoxy


371 Apollinarius’s views (an early form of Monophysitism [“one-naturism”]: Jesus has one, divine nature) spread

381 Council of Constantinople condemns Apollinarianism

440s Eutyches begins teaching Christ has only one nature after the Incarnation—a divine nature

449 Through intimidation and bribery, a council at Ephesus (the “Robber Council”) declares Eutyches orthodox

451 Council of Chalcedon proclaims that Christ has two natures and condemns Monophysitism

In the 500s, after repeated attempts at reconciliation, Monophysites consolidate in Coptic, Syrian, and Armenian communions


c. 390 Pelagius moves to Rome and is disturbed by moral laxity

c. 410 Pelagius teaches salvation by good works; some of his followers deny original sin

c. 411 Augustine begins writing against Pelagius

418 Council of Carthage affirms Augustine’s teaching

431 Council of Ephesus condemns Pelagianism

With the condemnation at the Council of Orange (529), Pelagianism dies out


428 Nestorius objects to calling Mary Theotokos (“God-bearer”), but Cyril of Alexandria defends the term and condemns Nestorius

431 Council of Ephesus declares Mary Theotokos and condemns Nestorianism

436 Nestorius banished to Upper Egypt

451 Council of Chalcedon condemns Nestorians, who gradually move to Persia and further east to form their own church

Nestorians remain a separate church to this day

Bradley Nassif is visiting professor of Eastern Orthodoxy at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. He is editor of New Perspectives on Historical Theology (Eerdmans, 1996).