Free Early Church Resources

I've created a few resources to aid with your studies or interest in the Early Church. The below maps are converted from the appendices in my book. I'll also soon add some hi-res versions as A3 poster size to purchase as well. Below the maps is an interactive chronological timeline of when the New Testament and Early Church texts were written. At the time of writing, I have covered most of the Ante-Nicene (pre-325 AD) period.

Geographical Locations of Early Church Texts

Approximate locations of where the NT and Ante-Nicene texts were written (or sent).

Blue book icons represent the New Testament books, the red crosses are a selection of the Early Church Fathers texts. Zoom in and click on the icons for more details.

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Journey of Ignatius to his Martyrdom

The whole journey covers about 1524 miles (2454 km)!

  • Blue pins are the known route that Ignatius took
  • Green pins are where he stopped to write his epistles (zoom in and click the pins for info)
  • Red pins are the conjectured route

 

Chronological Timeline of the New Testament and other Early Church Texts and Events

A timeline of when the New Testament and other early Patristic works were written*, plus significant historical events which may have influenced certain writings.

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KEY:
Orange = New Testament
Dark Green = Apostolic Fathers (c.70 - c.150 AD)
Light Green = Ante-Nicene Fathers (pre-325 AD)
Light Orange = Post-Nicene Fathers
Blue = Significant Historical Events
Black = Major Time Periods
Teal = First Seven Ecumenical Councils
Red = Widespread Persecutions
Light Red = Localised/Regional Persecutions
Grey = Disputed Facts
Yellow = Major Schisms

* Much of the dating and research has been taken from the works of Schaff, Lightfoot, Harmer et al.

 

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Recent Posts

Lent, Lament and Lockdown

| 2 days ago | Coronavirus

Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection.  Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost.  I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith.   The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”   Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us.  And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33).  There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...

Christians and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

| 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus

We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...

Is fasting an expectation for Christians?

| 29th February 2020 | Fasting

The season of Lent is here once again which of course brings up the topic of fasting, since the tradition of Lent comes from following Jesus’ example of his time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2). I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific this year like I have previous in previous years, but I felt inspired today at church from one of Gospel readings: Matthew 9:14–15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Often times when the topic of fasting, or Lent, comes up, people are quick to defend their inaction towards self-denial by claiming that, “Jesus didn’t command us to fast!”. Let’s take a look at that claim for a moment. There may be no chapter and verse you can point to where Jesus says, “Thou shalt fast” — but it was certainly implied in a couple of places when Jesus spoke on the topic, the verse from Matthew above being one of those times, when he finishes off by saying: “and then they will fast” after the “bridegroom” (ie. Jesus) is taken away (death and ascension into heaven). The other time Jesus talks about fasting is a little earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter six: Matthew 6:16–18 And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Here we can see that Jesus clearly speaks with the expectation that his followers will fast and even gives instructions and guidance on how to do so and how to avoid being lumped together with the “hypocrites” (sometimes translated as Pharisees). When Jesus tells us how to fast and when it will be appropriate, he was making sure to raise the bar again as he did with many things he taught on. As the Jewish leaders would fast in an obvious way to make sure that everyone could witness their apparent piety, Jesus was telling his followers to go about the business like normal; to get up, have a wash and not look miserable in their hunger. Reading past the Gospels and into Acts and the Epistles, we begin to see how the Apostles and other early believers took Jesus seriously and did begin to fast once the “bridegroom” has been taken away from them. In Acts, the Church was fasting and praying when making decisions about missionary work and who to send (Acts 13:2–3), before appointing leaders (Acts 14:23) and oftentimes fasting preceded receiving visions from God, which we see in both Old and New Testaments (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Fasting was also used for various other needs people wanted from God, like petitioning for answers in prayer, for protection, forgiveness or simply for humbling yourself (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 8:18–19). As you can see, fasting has a long and active tradition within Judaism, which passed on into Christianity quite naturally. During Second Temple Judaism, biweekly fasts were a common practice amongst Jews (see Luke 18:12 for a brief mention of it), and this is what Jesus would have been targeting in his teaching in Matt. 6. A late first century text from the early church, called The Didache (which was a sort of “church handbook”), expands on this teaching of Jesus and demonstrates to us how the earliest believers understood this and carried on the practice of fasting, taking the familiar model they were used to in Judaism, and reshaping it: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast...

Losing a Loved One: A Few Ways to Find Solace

| 29th January 2020 | Death

This week I have a guest post by Lucille Rosetti from thebereaved.org looking at the hard topic of death. As Christians we shouldn't fear death, and ought to look on it with a paradoxical hope, since we know that through Christ death has lost its "sting" (1 Cor 15:55-57) and that we look forward to the Resurrection and life to come. But even with that in mind, the physical and earthly loss is still hard and something we need to process and deal with, and the following guest post aims to help with the practical side of loss which still needs to be dealt with. Leave your thoughts in the comments! Losing a loved one is difficult. It always comes as a shock and requires you to set aside some time to properly grieve your loss. In addition to dealing with your emotional responses to the loss, there are many important decisions to make after the fact. The advice below may be a good starting point for those who need to figure out their next steps. Logistical Matters There are important logistical matters to take care of after someone passes away. Finding their important documents such as a Social Security card, will, or military discharge papers takes precedent. These can let you know if there were special instructions, tax obligations, benefits, and if the deceased wanted to be an organ donor. Make sure pets are taken care of, and locate a legal guardian if there are children who survive the deceased. If your loved one made an arrangement with a funeral home in the past, they may be able to assist with legal matters, especially if your loved one died at home; contact a funeral home if nothing has been arranged. Finally, notify credit reporting agencies so they can look out for possible fraud on the Social Security number and credit cards of the deceased. Sorting Through Possessions After a loss, it’s normal to become emotionally attached to items that belonged to the person who passed away. In fact, some people may feel they will lose more memories and parts of the deceased as they sort through items. It’s possible to make healthy decisions about this while still honoring the memory of the person you dearly loved. First, read the will of the deceased, if one exists. If there isn’t one, an estate lawyer and accountant may be able to help you deal with valuable possessions, an estate, and other legal matters.  Professionals, such as experts in bereavement cleanouts can provide support and advice as well. You can also take care of these things yourself. It’s wise to give yourself ample time to sort through things. Create a plan for which rooms you will clean on which days, and sort items based on these four criteria: toss, donate, keep, or sell. Reconsider switching items from a given pile as needed. Put paperwork and documents in a separate pile so you won’t miss any possible instructions or important notices. Clean every spot thoroughly. Over the years, your loved ones may have lost valuable pieces of jewelry that can be split up amongst the family. Selling Your Home According to Cancer.net, experts suggest waiting at least a year to make major life changes, such as changing jobs or moving. Of course, you know your situation best, and there may be specific reasons why you’d like to move sooner. Preparing paperwork is crucial to selling your home with the least amount of stress possible.  Gather documents and organize them in folders so you can easily look through them. Items to include in your folders are tax records and information, maintenance and home repair records, documents on appraisal of your home when you bought it and of appraisals performed afterward, mortgage details, home insurance records, property survey, certificates stating you comply with local zoning regulations or codes, and the sales contract created when you originally bought your house. Don’t forget to submit your original deed, which acts as proof that you own your home. It’s possible to obtain a certified copy for your local re...