By James Hitchcock

A finished historical past of the Catholic Church from its beginnings in Jesus' ministry to its present prestige in an more and more secular world.

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By excluding certain books as unsuitable to be read in the liturgy, the Church in effect declared the Gnostics’ own writings to be apocryphal (“hidden”) and unreliable. Creeds Paul denounced false teachings of a somewhat practical kind, such as the necessity of circumcision. The Gnostic threat, however, now led the Church to require assent to formal doctrines as set forth in creeds, one of the first instances of a pattern that would recur over and over again in the history of the Church: doctrines becoming fully conscious, and formally stated, only after being called into question.

By modern standards, that Church was rigorous indeed, but for people like Tertullian, she was too lax. The priest Hippolytus (d. 235), who took very rigorous positions on moral questions, attacked Pope St. Zephyrinus (199-217) as corrupt. Hippolytus was then himself proclaimed pope by a dissident group, thereby becoming the first “anti-pope”. Eventually, however, he was reconciled with Pope St. Pontian (230-235), and the two were martyred together. Ecclesiastical Structure The Worthiness of Her Members Hippolytus championed the not uncommon idea that the Church was the community of the righteous, in opposition to which Pope St.

Martyrdom was even venerated to the point where some Christians had to be warned not to seek it, since the achievement of that ultimate crown was entirely a matter of God’s will. When a group of Christians presented themselves to a Roman magistrate and demanded punishment, he remarked dryly that there were cliffs and rivers available to those who wished 45 to commit suicide. Martyrdom was inflicted in a variety of ways. Stephen was stoned to death, which was the Jewish penalty for blasphemy. Under Nero (54-68), Christians were coated with tar and set on fire in the amphitheatre to light the night games, and over the next two centuries, numerous Christians were sent into the arena to be torn apart by wild beasts, as Ignatius anticipated would happen to him.

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