People of Early Christianity
Martyrs, Fathers, Apologists, Writers, Figures
The field of action is Palestine and gradually extends over Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. The most prominent centers are Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome, which represent respectively the mother churches of Jewish, Gentile, and United Catholic Christianity.
Next to them are Ephesus and Corinth. Ephesus acquired special importance by the residence and labors of John, which made themselves felt during the second century through Polycarp and Irenaeus. Samaria, Damascus, Joppa, Caesarea, Tyre, Cyprus, the provinces of Asia Minor, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Crete, Patmos, Malta, Puteoli, come also into view as points where the Christian faith was planted.
Through the eunuch converted by Philip, it reached Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. As early as A.D. 58 Paul could say: "From Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." He afterward carried it to Rome, where it had already been known before, and possibly as far as Spain, the western boundary of the empire.
See main page: Early church
The second period, from the death of the apostle John to the end of the persecutions, or to the accession of Constantine, is the classic age of the ecclesia pressa, of heathen persecution, and of Christian martyrdom and heroism, of the cheerful sacrifice of possessions and life itself for the inheritance of heaven.
This period furnishes a continuous commentary on the Saviour's words: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword…"
The church of this period appears poor in earthly possessions and honors, but rich in heavenly grace, in world-conquering faith, love, and hope; unpopular, even outlawed, hated, and persecuted, yet far more vigorous and expansive than the philosophies of Greece or the empire of Rome; composed chiefly of persons of the lower social ranks, yet attracting the noblest and deepest minds of the age, and bearing, in her bosom the hope of the world; "as unknown, yet well-known, as dying, and behold it lives;" conquering by apparent defeat, and growing on the blood of her martyrs; great in deeds, greater in sufferings, greatest in death for the honor of Christ and the benefit of generations to come.
In the second century, conventionally educated converts began to produce two kinds of writings that help us understand the developing shapes of Christianity — works aimed at a broad audience of educated non-Christians and works aimed at those who considered themselves inside the Church.
The writing for non-Christians is usually called apologetic in the same sense that the speech was given by Socrates in his defense before the Athenian assembly is called his Apology — the word in Greek meant "speech for the defense" rather than the modern more limited denotation of "a statement expressing regret".
The Apologists, as these authors are sometimes known, made a presentation for the educated classes of the beliefs of Christians, often coupled with an attack on the beliefs and practices of the pagans. Other writings had the purpose of instructing and admonishing fellow Christians.
Momentous changes occurred both in the church and in the political structure of the West during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries:
(Source: Adapted from Theopedia)