May 3, 1512: The Fifth Lateran Council, the last attempt at papal reform before the Lutheran revolt, opens in Rome.
May 3, 1675: A Massachusetts law goes into effect requiring church doors to be locked during services. Officials enacted the law because too many people were leaving before sermons were over.
May 3, 1738: English preacher George Whitefield, the most famous religious figure of the 1700s, arrives in America for his first of seven visits. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers (see issue 38: George Whitefield).
May 3, 1861: The Southern Congress approves a bill installing chaplains in Confederate armies. The American military did not normally employ chaplains, but they became a permanent fixture during and after the Civil War. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Confederate troops converted to christianity during wartime revivals (see issue 33: Christianity & the Civil War).
January 25, 98: Upon the sudden death of Emperor Nerva, Trajan takes the throne. In 110, he asked Pliny the Younger to investigate a new superstition, "Christianity." Pliny's report of a relatively harmless though widespread cult led to moderate persecution—and the first recognition that Christians were distinct from Jews (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).
January 25, 1627: Noted physicist and chemist Robert Boyle is born in Ireland. After a lifetime of writing about ...