History of Ancient Christianity

Ca. 25 - 527

Important Events

Jesus Christ

4 bce - 30 ce

Crucified 30 or 33 (probably).

25 CE

25 CE

Melito of Sardis

120 ce - 180 ce

(birth unknown) -- d. ca. 180.

Coined the term "Old Testament" and collected it into canon.

Rapid Expansion of the Church

200 ce - 400 ce

3rd and 4th centuries marked by a rapid increase in the expansion of the church. Also marked by the rise of Monasticism.

Eusebius Pamphilius of Caesarea

263 ce - 339 ce

Known as the "Father of Church History"; wrote many critiques and histories of prominent church figures. (Very prolific)

Constantine's Reign Begins


First Council of Nicaea

325 CE

First ecumenical council, attempted to gain consensus by containing representatives from all of Christendom. Christology and a the nature of Christ was one in particular (Arius deemed heretic for his non-trinitarian view of Jesus). One of the major results of this communing of bishops was the writing of the Nicene Creed (which had a second version written in 381 at the third council).

First Council of Constantinople

381 ce

Edits and adds onto Nicene Creed. This change is debated, but later councils claimed the initial to be superior and made no more changes.


412 CE - 451 CE

Council of Ephesus

431 CE

Council of Chalcedon

451 CE

527 ce

527 ce


John the Baptist

5 Bce - 36 ce

ca. 5 bce - (30-36) ce.

Saint Peter

1 BCE - 67 CE

ca. 1 bce - around 67 ce

Paul of Tarsus

5 CE - 67 CE


5 ce - 55 ce

Pierced Jesus. Life dates uncertain.

John the Apostle

6 CE - 100 CE

c. 6 - c. 100

John the Evangelist

15 ce - 100 ce

ca. 15 - 100 ce


17 ce - 80 ce

Clement I of Rome

30 ce - 100 ce

First Apostolic Father of the Church

Stephen, Protomartyr

34 ce - 35 ce

ca. 34

Ignatius of Antioch

35 ce - 108 ce

(35 or 50) between (98 or 117)

Simeon of Jerusalem

50 CE - 117 CE

Second Bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just

James the Just

62 ce

Died 62 CE -- half-brother of jesus?

Polycarp of Smyrna

69 ce - 155 ce

Saint Serapia

80 ce - 119 ce

Born late first century, died 119

Justin Martyr

100 ce - 165 ce


110 ce - 180 ce

Polycrates of Ephesus

130 - 196

fl. ca.

Hippolytus of Rome

170 ce - 236 ce

Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus "Cyprian"

200 ce - 258 ce

Born early 3rd century, baptism 245-8, death 258.

Victorinus of Pettau

240 ce - 304 ce

Birth unknown, fl. ca. 270; d. ca. 304.

Helena of Constantinople

249 ce - 329 ce

Mother of Constantine I, found the "True Cross" that was "placed" at the Golgotha temple complex built by Emperor Constantine. Went on pilgrimages to Palestine. Supposedly quite pious

Anthony the Great

251 CE - 356 CE

Aphrahat - Persian Sage

270 ce - 345 ce

A convert, the "Persian Sage" (supposedly had the baptism-name of Jacob) was a contemporary of Ephraem and wrote 23 Demonstrations or Homilies on different items of Christian doctrine or practice. He was an ascetic, celibate, and a member of a monastic community.


292 ce - 348 ce

Athanasius of Alexandria

298 CE - 373 CE

Critic of Arianism, proponent of Trinitarianism. Wrote the first classic work of Orthodox theology. Also wrote the Life of St. Antony, professing the ascetic ideal.

Pope Saint Damascus

305 ce - 384 ce

366 - 384 ce (Pope) -- Employed St. Jerome as secretary. Opposed schisms in church of Apollinarianism and Macedonianism

Epiphanius of Salamis

315 ce - 403 ce

ca. 315 - 403 -- Attacked Origen's writings publicly, wrote extensively against heretical movements of Arianism and Apollinarianism. Also wrote the Panarion, which covered 80 heresies.

Martin of Tours

316 ce - 397 ce

Melania the Elder

325 ce - 410 ce

Gregory of Nazianzus

325 ce - 389 ce

Basil the Great

329 ce - 379 ce

Macrina the Younger

330 CE - 380 CE

Gregory of Nyssa

335 CE - 395 CE


340 ce - 420 ce

John Chrysostom

347 ce - 407 ce

Shenoute of Atripe

348 ce - 466 ce

Augustine of Hippo

354 ce - 430 ce

Cyril of Alexandria

376 ce - 444 ce

Melania the Younger

383 ce - 439 ce

Simeon the Stylite

390 CE - 459 CE

Daniel the Stylite

409 ce - 493 ce


437 ce - 533 ce

Bishop of Reims, baptised the King of the Franks and thus converted the Frankish people to Nicene Christianity and wrote against the Arian Heresy.

Benedict of Nursia

480 ce - 547 ce

Romanos the Melodist

490 ce - 556 ce


Employing Judaic Music

30 ce - 50 ce

30's and 40's, music scene was not noticeably different from Jewish practices and temple music.

1 Corinthians

53 ce - 57 ce

Written mid-50's. First NT mention of musical instruments. 2 figurative examples.

Then concrete examples of singing. 14:15 (singing praise) and 14:26 (hymns)


58 ce - 65 ce

(Going with Koester again when he argues that "Colossians was probably written not long after Paul's missionary activity") ca. 58-65 ce. As for music, the famous Col 3:16, singing to one another and having grace singing in one's hearts to God.

Epistle of James

67 ce - 100 ce

(Although Koester doesn't believe it could have been written prior to 62, he poses no clearer idea of when. A time of the last third of the 1st century seems appropriate after research) -- Sad should pray, cheerful should sing.

Book of Acts

70 ce - 85 ce

(According to Koester, this would be sometime in between around 70 and before the other Acts were written (which was around the 90's) and before his death ca. mid 80's) Ca. 70-80 ce written by Luke the Evangelist, companion of Paul. First concrete reference in NT to Christians (Paul and Silas: missionaries) singing to God.

Odes of Solomon

70 ce - 125 ce

(There's still not much consensus on origin of these--anywhere from 1st to 3rd centuries are debated. I find the argument for later first century more convincing) These 42 odes contain 4 examples (concrete, but idealistic) regarding music and its relation to the Trinity (usually the Holy Spirit is addressed in direct relation to music), as well as its effective abilities in allowing the musicians to 'produce fruits in You.' In addition, these Odes frequently refer to a choral group, which is the first reference to non-collective Christian singing.

House-Temples Used

70 ce - 300 ce

By the destruction of the temple, Christian communities had begun using private homes as their temples/places of gathering. Making a stronger break with Jewish practices--including the entrance of new musical hymnal and instrumental practices.


80 ce - 100 ce

(Koester makes a good argument for placing it "not more than a few years before 100") -- Famous 'don't drink wine, fill yourself with the holy spirit by singing hymns and psalms instead'

Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth

100 ce - 150 ce

([Nag Hammadi] Untitled, unknown author, thought to be beginning to mid 2nd century authorship) -- Discourse on singing silently: singing in one's head to God, as God is "Mind." Furthermore, reference to angels singing. Later there is discussion of one never ceasing to sing the silent hymn of praise to god, as well as a written 'hymn' which is just a string of vowels, as found in other Nag Hammadi texts (e.g. Great Invisible Spirit) and is used to "invoke your name hidden in me."

Ignatius's Letters

107 ce - 108 ce

On the way to his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote letters to Christian communities in Asia Minor and Rome, as well as to Polycarp of Smyrna. Four of these seven (Magnesians, Ephesians, Romans, and Philadelphians) contained musical-instrument references, usually in poetic, metaphorical form. In five, however, there are vocal music references and images: e.g. Mag 1:2, Eph 4:1-2 (which makes the claim that harmony is God's pitch), Rom 2:2.

Pliny Writes on Christian Hymns

111 ce - 112 ce

To Trajan, about how they get up early and sing. "assemble on a set day before dawn and sing a hymn among themselves to the Christ, as to a god..." Establishes singing in the order of worship, as well as makes the point that Christians participated in collective-singing.

The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit

120 CE - 180 CE

([Nag Hammadi Text] Thought to originate some time within 2nd century) -- Contains a hymn thought to be an example of early christian Glossolalia. Also contains mention of Christians singing praise 'as one'

The Secret Book of James

130 ce - 170 ce

(No definite dating. Thought to be in 2nd century, early-mid to late-mid, depending on who's arguing). -- Acknowledges that heavenly beings sing hymns in heaven. Also that one can see and hear angels singing hymns, which makes one want to sing praise.

Pseudo-Justin Address to the Greeks

140 ce - 160 ce

(Written around middle of second century) uses music as a figurative tool, comparing how divine revelation works in prophets to using a lyre.

Apology of Justin Martyr

145 ce - 155 ce

Written ca. 150 ce. Contrasted Christian worship from Pagan and earlier temple-Jewish worship two ways: Christians don't do fire sacrifice, and Christians offer prayers and hymns to God.

Discourse to the Greeks by Tatian

155 ce - 165 ce

Written ca. 160 ce. Contrasts the Greek chorus with Christian song. Criticizes the Greeks for using music for entertainment, and for having an "intrusive and distracting" conductor.

Acts of Paul

160 ce - 190 ce

Earliest description of an Agape "Love feast": a moderate banquet in commemoration of the last dinner. Very much a social gather to have a dinner, but greatly in contrast with pagan and secular banquets in that the Christians respected each other with sobriety and maintained communal religious devotion throughout. (Supposedly) [Chapter 9]

Also Chapter 9 is to be noted for being the first mention of Christians singing psalms about David.

Sibylline Oracles

170 ce - 180 ce

(Written near the end of the second century) Book 8 contrases Christian and non-Christian contemporary worship in Rome. It does so by explaining what the Christians don't do, including the instruments they don't use.

Later in Book 8, it makes the point that Christianity is not a sacrifice-based religion, and instead is one based on love and offering song: "rejoicing with pure heart and cheerful spirit, with abundant love and generous hands, with propitiatory psalms and chants beseeming God, we are called upon to hymn thee, immortal and faithful God, creator of all and understanding all." (496-500)


180 ce - 200 ce

Written "probably before the third century"; Clement's Paedagogus ("Instructor") includes incidental remarks on music for new converts. In Book 2, there is mention of instruments not to play (like in Syb), and later on, an association of musical instruments with war and ('Since Christians are pacifists') thus negativity. Furthermore, this view is shared by the whole of early Christian orthodoxy. However, it's important to note that Clement does not claim music as bad, just musical instruments as bad. The voice, however, was a gift of God and to be used to worship God. Instruments were, however, associated with Paganism and war.

On Prayer by Tertullian

195 CE - 205 CE

Written ca. 200. [Chapter 25] One of the earlier records displaying an emphasis on Christians doing private devotion. Devotion, as Acts states, may consist of song, supplication, and thanksgiving (not female-exclusive). [Chapter 27] Psalms ingredient in ordinary prayer.

Continued with Cyprian "On the Lord's Prayer" ca. 250 writing similarly, as well as Origen contemporarily.

Apologeticus of Tertullian

195 ce - 200 ce

39:18 describes how an Agape concludes, and what is sung. Two types: "from the sacred scriptures" (probably Book of Psalms, Song of the Sea, or possibly Odes of Solomon) or of one's own "invention".

On the Soul by Tertullian

208 ce - 212 ce

9:4 -- place of singing at the Eucharist. Singing while scriptures are read. Presence of sung psalms in close proximity liturgically to readings of scripture during Eucharist Liturgy of the Word.

Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus

210 ce - 220 ce

Written ca. 215 ce. Apos. Trad. 25 shows what was sung, when, how, and who (both virgins and boys) at Agapes. The deacon would sing solo before elements that were for the boys and virgins and elements like "Alleluia" which were for all to sing. Noticeably more formal and separated than Tertullian's--also selection of psalms limited to Book of Psalms.

--This is not entirely different from Jewish customs: the main difference is just that Jewish events occurred in temple and/or Synagogue, while the Agape's occurred relatively informallys at house-temples.

On Prayer by Origen

233 ce - 234 ce

Though he does not write directly that one ought to sing during devotion, in chapter 12--while defending his position on prayer hours--Origen sites book of Psalms as well as Acts, which mention singing as a part of devotion, and thus make it acceptable, even desirable, to recite psalms in the respective hours.

To Donatus, Cyprian's 1 Epistle

246 ce - 248 ce

Written shortly after Cyprian's baptism (ca. 246). Cyprian advocates singing a psalm at the evening dinner. The second occasion outside of prayer/devotion wherein songs were heard was typically the lighting of lanterns at nighttime (as Basil of Caesarea writes about in mid-late 4th century).

Tripartite Tractate

275 ce - 325 ce

([Nag Hammadi text] Thought to originate some time around late 3rd to early 4th century) -- Makes mention of the ability of hymns and song to make God visible to those singing. Also comments of liturgical use of hymns and psalms.

Hilary of Poitiers

300 ce - 368 ce

Arguably the first Latin Christian Hymn writer. Led the movement of writing strophic, isosyllabic christian poetry that re-affirmed Christian doctrine (perhaps as a defense against heretical doctrine and hymns, such as Bardaisan and Harmonious). Hilary is said to have described one of the roles of the hymn as to "put the enemy to flight."

St. Ephraem the Syrian

306 ce - 373 ce

Composes hymns--400+ of which still survive today--Originally writing madrase (the tones to which are now lost) in response to Bardaisan and Mani who did the same. Perhaps his most famous hymns were Against Heresies, wherein Christians were defended against schools like Apoll. and docetism. Ephraem's verse spoke of Jesus as the union of human and divine, and as a perfectly subtle and peaceful mystery.


320 ce - 350 ce

Monk and eventual head of Pachomius's monastery. Established new Regulations that specifically mentioned the intensity and importance of recitations and night vigils, including punishments of more psalm recitations in the event one failed to hold his/her private night vigil.

Patriarchate of Athanasius

328 ce - 339 ce

Patriarch of Alexandria. Urban monasteries supplied the readers and cantors for cathedrals, for doing Eucharist and night vigils. These were attended by monks, nuns, and the general Christian Populace alike.

Letter to Marcellinus by Athanasius

335 ce - 366 ce

(No firm date of authorship. Could have potentially been as early as 313) -- Athanasius comments on the different manner with which he has observed others read the 'non-poetic' parts of the Bible compared to the 'psalms, odes and songs.' He witnesses a 'certain mellifluousness in psalmody.'

Canons of Hippolytus

336 ce - 340 ce

In Canon 21, one sees how music is employed in lower Egypt urban monastic movements as well: pretty similarly. All gather at the crack of dawn and recite prayers and psalms, and then reading from the scriptures.

Ambrose of Milan

340 ce - 397 ce

With Ephraem and Hilary, one of the three major hymn writers. Said of his popular hymns that the Arians told him "the people have been led astray [from Arianism] by the strains of my hymns"

In Augustine's Confessions, 7 and 9, he mentions Ambrose's introduction of hymns "after the manner of the eastern regions" that went on to become imitated by the rest of western churches.

Second Patriarchate of Athanasius

346 CE - 373 CE

Re: first.

Episcopate of Cyril

350 ce - 386 ce

(Jerusalem) As in Alexandria and Constantinople

Canons of Laodicea

363 CE - 364 CE

Four Canons (15, 17, 23, 59) start limiting the type and performance of music in/at church (e.g. only psalms/hymns from scripture now).

Ep. 207 of Basil the Great

374 ce - 375 ce

Letter 207 provides evidence for antiphonal psalmody (two alternating groups singing a single psalm aka soloist with collective response) and says that such a method of psalmody is in use throughout the whole of Eastern Christendom

Apostolic Constitutions

375 ce - 380 ce

Books 2 and 8 instruct the readers to pre-Eucharist synaxis (hymns of david and other psalms to be sung), as well as instructions for the Eucharist itself, and the hymns and verses to be sung during specific moments ("holy, holy, holy" as an example). Later in Book 8 the Apos Con also addresses the place of the singers and their responsibilities.

Homily On 1 Corinthians by Chrysostom

375 ce - 400 ce

Written sometime after 375 and before his death.

This sermon witnesses formal psalmody, the continuation of house-churches, 'must be just one voice in the church as there is just one body'

Also mention of antiphonal (solo with collective response) as single voice.

Egeria's Travels

381 ce - 384 ce

Egeria visits Jerusalem and the Golgotha temple complex built by Constantine. Notices the hymns and prayers inbetween hymns--morning hymns, processional hymns; again at mid-day; twice in at evening. Some blessings interspersed at the end of the day hours before people disperse.

Egeria notes no hymns or psalms after morning hymns on Sunday.

Episcopate of John Chrysostom

397 CE - 404 CE

(Constantinople) Like Athanasius in Alexandria, Monasteries provided readers and cantors for urban Cathedral Eucharist, Vigils, and services.

Introduced nocturnal and processional hymn singing as a means of combating Arianism.

Lausiac History by Palladius

419 ce - 420 ce

Archived the desert hermits. Made note of their chanting and hymn recitation. One particular example was Chapter 22 on St Antony the Great who would chant psalms during the day, take a rest and then wake up in the middle of the night in order to chant psalms until it was day.

Introduction of Instruments

450 CE - 451 CE

Beginning in the 5th and 6th centuries, Christian communities began incorporating musical instruments into their worship--previously only song.

Gold Age of Byz. Hymnography

500 CE - 501 CE

The 6th Century is known as the start of the golden age of Byzantine hymnography, one of its earlier figures was St. Romanos


Irenaeus of Lyons

130 CE - 200 CE

Adversus Haereses - ca. 180 CE - World was not made by angels. Accepts the Enochic myth of angelic descent, and describes Fallen Angels as subjects of Christ's judgment at the end times.

First Apology of Justin Martyr

150 - 155

"host of good angels"; angel veneration. Composed some time inbetween 150 and 155.

Clement of Alexandria

150 - 215

Sextus Julius Africanus

160 - 240


160 - 225

The nearest approach to a definition of angels in Tertullian’s writings is his assertion that certain ‘spiritual essences’ exist. But this must be qualified by the recognition of the fact that to Tertullian every spiritual being is endowed with corporeity of a kind. God, the soul, angels, and demons, all have bodies more tenuous in texture but not less real than the fleshly bodies of men. It is within the range of God’s power to create for angels bodies of flesh like those of men. So He endowed the angels who met Abraham with bodies that might be seen and touched. But they were not born in human-wise. Their bodies were created after the similitude of that of Adam. The God who created his body could create theirs. As a general rule, however, the angels are endowed, |p145 according to Tertullian, with bodies which are not visible in the ordinary course to mortal eye.

Christians are, in his opinion, destined to become as Angels.

A Plea for the Christians

176 ce - 177 ce

By Athenagoras - Recognizes Angels as holding positions made by god. Something Christians believe in.


184 - 254

Wrote on angels as pre-existent souls. God's first created beings were higher, even, then angels. Some people are inherited by the souls of wicked angels.


260 ce - 330 ce

Lactantius equivocates the Judeo-Christian tradition of angels with the pagan. This fallacy of equivocation was used with great effect: rather than clarifying terms between his audience and himself, Lactantius simply argued for the Christian perspective:

For Lactantius, angels were created before eternity to serve God and prevent Him from being lonely. Innumerable and winged, they lived mainly in heaven, and existed in a state of holiness. They worshipped God with fear and trembling, and were ministers of divine providence. For example, they opened the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites. Their actions revealed that they had personality, and indeed, they originated from God's breath. Lactantius' Christology is closely related to his angelology. According to him, Christ, like the angels, came from God's breath, but was also God's spoken Word. Lactantius believed in a form of Subordinationism, but clearly distinguished between angels and Christ.

Angels were also ministers and guardians of humankind. They helped men against evil and bettered their condition. They were endowed with vast knowledge, which came from God, but could not be examples or fully teach men. Lactantius was careful to deny any cultus of the angels. However, because they were friends of God and guardians of men, they should be treated with respect and even some reverence.

Demonstratio Evangelica III


Eusebius differentiates between worship of God and the cult of Angels.

Temples Begin to Frequently be Named after Angels

400 ce



20 BCE - 50 CE

Fused Greek philosophy with Jewish theology. Considered one of the fore-runners of the Gnostic traditions for his discussion of God and the Logos.


100 CE - 160 CE

A gnostic writer and founder of valentinianism, of the most successful Gnostic sects.


144 CE - 400 CE

Christian Dualism. Utterly alien God, and Jesus isn't Human. Similar to Gnosticism, but different in its view of the Heavenly Father.


154 ce - 222 ce

Popular heretical hymn writer.


160 CE - 500 CE

New prophecy movement.


250 ce - 336 ce

Started non-Trinitarianism Arianism, which is targeted by the First Council of Nicaea


350 CE - 450 CE

Fl. mid 4th - beginning of 5th centuries. Held that the Holy Spirit was not divine.


350 ce - 380 ce

Priscillian (d. ca. 385 ce) started this heretical movement in the Iberian peninsula. He was the first person to be executed for heresy.


Council of Jerusalem

50 CE - 51 CE

Model for Ecumenical Councils later on (post 300CE). At this Council of Jerusalem, it was decided that both Jews and Pagans could convert to Christianity. Much of the treatment of gentiles/pagans was discussed, as well as Antioch.

Pliny the Younger

61 ce - 112 ce

First Persecution

64 CE - 68 CE

Nero initiates first persecution of Christianity.

Apollinaris Claudius fl.

161 ce - 180 ce

Writes books and letters "Concerning Truth" and others against the Greeks, the Gentiles, the Jews, and other Heretics/Pagans.


235 CE - 238 CE

First empire-wide persecution of Christianity, though only of the Clergy.

Great Persecution

303 CE - 313 CE

Laws nullified here and there, but considered officially over with Constantine. Christians' legal rights were rescinded and, in general, visciously persecuted.

Constantine Tolerates Pagans

312 CE - 320 CE

Pagan titles allowed, deities remain on coins

Constantine Attacks Pagans

320 ce - 337 ce

In 324, Constantine conquers tolerant Licinius and begins uprooting Paganism in the eastern realms of the empire as well.

Beginning of Formal Pagan Persecution

337 CE - 361 CE

Under Constantius II, laws were established that formalized persecution of Paganism. Were not as severe as the persecution under later Theodosius.

Julian the Apostate

361 CE - 363 CE

Revives (unsuccessfully) Roman state Paganism only to have it taken back down after later Emperors. It remained tolerated, however, through Valentinian I.

Pagans Tolerated

363 CE - 375 CE

Under emperors Jovian, Valens, and Valentinian I, Pagans were relatively tolerated.

Theodosius the Great

379 CE - 395 CE

Last Roman Emperor to rule entire empire of Rome. Persecutes Paganism and establishes Trinitarian, Nicene Creed Christianity as the only Imperial Religion of Rome. Successfully destroys several major Pagan temples.

Illus and Leontius

484 CE - 488 CE

After the Western Roman Empire fell, Illus, a general under Eastern Emperor Zeno, raised Leontius as a candidate for Emperor in a desire to reinstate the traditional Roman Pagan Cult. After 4 years of conflict, Illus and Leontius were beheaded by Zeno, who persecuted Pagans more.

Anastasius I

491 CE - 518 CE

Required to sign a written declaration of orthodoxy before his coronation as Emperor, marking the complete subjugation of the Roman empire to Christianity