First century Christianity

period of early Christian history dated from 33 AD to 100 AD

In the first century of Christianity the Apostolic Age commences with the ministry of Jesus (c. 27–29 AD) to the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles (c. 100 AD), who spread the teachings of Jesus to all nations. Early Christianity developed out of the eschatological ministry of Jesus.

The Sermon On the Mount. Carl Bloch (1834–1890)


  • Ταπεινοφρονούντων γάρ ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός, οὐκ ἐπαιρομένων ἐπὶ τὸ ποίμνιον αὐτοῦ.
  • καταμάθετε δὲ τοὺς ἑτεροδοξοῦντας εἰς τὴν χάριν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τὴν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐλθοῦσαν, πῶς ἐναντίοι εἰσὶν τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ θεοῦ. περὶ ἀγάπης οὐ μέλει αὐτοῖς, οὐ περὶ χήρας, οὐ περὶ ὀρφανοῦ, οὐ περὶ θλιβομένου, οὐ περὶ δεδεμένου ἢ λελυμένου,οὐ περὶ πεινῶντος ἢ διψῶντος.
    • Take note of those who spout false opinions about the gracious gift of Jesus Christ that has come to us, and see how they are opposed to the mind of God. They have no interest in love, in the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the one who is in chains or the one set free, the one who is hungry or the one who thirsts.
  • For the first 250 years following the birth, ministry, and death of Christ, the Roman Empire was not an especially nice place to be a Christian. Romans had traditionally been enthusiastic collectors of gods, including the Olympian pantheon and various mystery cults from the east. So to begin with, there was little enthusiasm for this odd Jewish sect, whose members sought to keep alive the memory of the carpenter’s son who had caused a brief stir in Jerusalem during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. The first generations of Christians were scattered among the cities of the Mediterranean, in sporadic communication with one another but in no position to grow their numbers. Ardent believers like the apostle Paul (Saint Paul) traveled far and wide, preaching and writing famous letters to all who would listen (and some who would not), describing the miracle of Christ’s sacrifice. But in an empire that made gods of everything from the sun and planets to its own emperors, and liberally borrowed from the religious practices of those whom it conquered, men like Paul were nothing new; there was little indication during his lifetime in the first century A.D. that his enthusiastic wanderings and writings would eventually plant Christ’s name in the hearts of literally billions of people during the next two thousand years of world history. In A.D. 112, Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan to describe a legal investigation he had undertaken in Bithynia (modern Turkey) following complaints against local Christians. Having tortured a number of them, including young girls, Pliny wrote, he had only really been able to establish that they followed a “bad . . . and extravagant superstition” that “is spread like a contagion.”
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2020).
  • The apostles ... did not seek excessive gain by exploiting each other. ... One was not rich while another was destitute, nor did one overeat while another starved. The generosity of those who were well off made good what others lacked, this willingness to share eliminating every anomaly and establishing equality and fairness. ... Inequality still existed, produced not as it is now by the mad struggle for social status, but by a great desire to live more humbly than others. Envy, malice, arrogance and haughtiness were banished, along with all that leads to discord.
  • For the early Church, "church" and "world" were visibly distinct yet affirmed in faith to have one and the same lord. This pair of affirmations is what the so-called Constantinian transformation changes (I here use the name of Constantine merely as a label for this transformation, which began before AD200 and took over 200 years; the use of his name does not mean an evaluation of his person or work). The most pertinent fact about the new state of things after Constantine and Augustine is not that Christians were no longer persecuted and began to be privileged, nor that emperors built churches and presided over ecumenical deliberations about the Trinity; what matters is that the two visible realities, church and world, were fused. There is no longer anything to call "world"; state, economy, art, rhetoric, superstition, and war have all been baptized.
    • John Howard Yoder, "The Otherness of the Church" (1961) in A Reader in Ecclesiology (2012), p. 200.

See also