This week’s Triumphs and Tragedies podcast covers the first century of the church: year dot to 100 AD. It was an exciting first century and already the struggles of the early church shed light on what is going on in the church today.

Clearly there were world changing events in this century. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the turning point of all things, but the dates then pile up.

Timeline Overview:

  • The resurrection is followed by Pentecost in the 33 AD.
  • At the Council of Jerusalem (49 AD) the apostles resolved the question of Gentiles coming into the church.
  • By 63 AD St Paul had completed his missionary journeys and was under house arrest in Rome. St Peter was also in Rome by that time.
  • Both were martyred under the persecution of the Emperor Nero in 65 AD.
  • The date of their martyrdom also establishes the latest date of Acts of the Apostles and therefore the first three gospels.
  • Linus and Cletus succeed Peter as leaders of the Roman Church
  • Jerusalem is destroyed by the Roman armies. Jews and Jewish Christians were dispersed across the Empire. 70 AD
  • Another persecution by the Domitian 89-96 AD
  • The epistle of Clement to the Corinthians asserts Roman leadership over another church. 90s AD
  • St John, the last surviving apostle dies: c. 95 AD.

For further reading the first stop is, of course, the Acts of the Apostles. Good Catholic commentaries on Scripture will illuminate more of this important book of the Bible. The Jerome Biblical Commentary is a good handbook to have by your Bible. The New American Bible is the one I use. St Joseph Edition has lots of notes and cross references.

For  textbooks on church history I’m using Bokenkotter’s Concise History of the Catholic Church;  James Hitchcock’s History of the Catholic Church;  Eamon Duffy’s history of the papacy Saints and Sinners and the Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity

For more detail on the earliest days of the church you can go over to the fantastic audio series on the early church  by Monsignor Michael John Witt. There you’ll find 46 full length episodes on the church in the first 500 years. The first ten of Msgr Witt’s podcasts are on the background and detail that I have covered in this one episode!

If you’re interested in archeological finds that support the historicity of the stories check out John McNeill’s great new book The Fisherman’s Tomb.  The new film Paul Apostle of Christ has had good reviews. That’s worth a look. In the Steps of St Paul by Peter Walker is a great illustrated text on Paul’s missionary journeys.

The big issue I have highlighted in this episode is how we deal with change in the church. How does the church adapt to changing times, cultures and circumstances? How do we balance the need to maintain the faith once delivered to the saints with the need to adapt in order to evangelize. We see the apostles struggling with this as the call to take the gospel to the Gentiles unfolds.

Bl. John Henry Newman’s essay on the Development of Doctrine is an invaluable resource here. Be warned. It is pretty dense reading, but it is worth the reward if you persevere. The whole essay in online here.

Church documents? Ad Gentes is the Vatican II document on the missionary call of the church. Redemptoris Missio is John Paul II’s call to mission. The relationship of the Catholic faith to other denominations and other religions is outlined in Dominus Jesus a teaching from the pontificate of Pope St John Paul II.

If you want to get a discussion going in the comments box feel free. Maybe a few questions will get things going.

  1. What changes in the church today make you feel uneasy? Should you feel uneasy or ready to take some risks?
  2. If change is on the cards what do you think can be changed and what cannot be changed?
  3. Does it really matter to you on the ground and on your knees what happens in Rome?
  4. Is Pope Francis your kinda guy or not? If not why not?
  5. What have you learned from Triumphs and Tragedies so far?
  6. What suggestions and comments do you have to make the podcast better?

Thanks for tuning in and thanks for supporting the blog-website. Your help makes the podcast and the blog possible for all.

PS: I hope you enjoy the monthly Boox Grab Box!