Beginning until the Reformation
A Summary of the History of Beliefs before Christ
History is the memory of
humanity, which is necessary for understanding reality. Although the emphasis of this history is on beliefs about ultimate
reality, it will include a summary of the major political events and cultural aspects. For most people, history is like
a jigsaw puzzle. Just as putting the border pieces together first is a good strategy for making the rest of a puzzle
easier to work, so also knowing the main events of history serves as a framework that makes learning how other events fit
into the picture much easier. Below is a list of memory pegs that may serve the reader as such a framework. For
the explanation of why these pegs were chosen, please see "A Logical Framework for the History of Beliefs" in Lesson
1. alpha (beginning), 2. language,
3. writing, 4. Judaism (monotheism),
5. Hinduism/Buddhism (karmaism), 6. Atheism-Confucianism (humanism),
7. Greekism (science), 8. Romanism
(political power), 9. Christianity (love),
10. Roman Catholicism (coersion), 11. Germanic migrations, 12. Islam (fascism),
13. Kublai Khan (east meets west), 14. Renaissance (education), 15. Protestantism
(relative tolerance), 16. Colonization
(quest for hegemony/"King of the hill"),
17. United States (capitalism),
18. Totalitarianism (Napoleon, Hitler,
19. Today, 20. omega (end)
Now we will start from the beginning with a chronological summary. Scientific research indicates the universe
began when energy in a “singularity” exploded with a “big bang”. Similarly, science supports
the view that the world will have an ultimate end when the stars all burn out. Scientists study how the world operates
and have developed theories of continent formation and the evolution of living forms over billions of
years, whereas meta-physicists try to answer whether the world
includes a dimension of "oughtness" or was created by a God for a moral purpose.
The Genesis account of creation (OT) is the earliest and most developed
descriptions of the history of beliefs about ultimate reality. It portrays God as speaking the universe into existence
(so that both the world and inspired scriptures manifest God’s Word). It also says that God created
both males and females in his image (which seems to mean with the capacity to communicate with God and to make moral choices).
The first man and woman were good or innocent, but they
sinned together by not asking God about the lie of Satan (GN 3:6b-7), which resulted in spiritual death or separation
from God and Edenic existence. However, God did not allow Adam and Eve to live forever in their fallen position.
He shed the blood of innocent animals to cover the guilt of their sin, and He promised that a descendant would
crush the power of Satan (GN 3:15-22).
Genesis story continues with accounts of the first murder ( by Cain), the first person to walk or cooperate with
God (Enoch), God saving Noah's family from a flood (GN 6-9), and the dispersion of humanity over the
earth from the tower at Babel (GN 11). In order to jibe with the findings of archeology, the post-Babel migrations
must have occurred after the stone-age cave dwellers (Paleolithic period) during the Mesolithic cultural period, which was
followed by the Neolithic period, when mankind began to farm and make pottery (about 10,000-3,000 B.C.). [Note
that all dates from this point on are B.C. until otherwise indicated.]
Secular histories of mankind commonly begin with three
civilization: 1. in Mesopotamia at the Sumerian city-state of Ur, where archaeologists have found the earliest
written language (pictographs on clay tablets) and wheeled vehicles; 2. in the Indus river valley at Harappa
and Mohenjo-Daro; and 3. in Egypt, where the first historic dynasty was established by Menes when he united
the Upper and Lower Nile cultures. (The first pyramid was built about 3100, and the Great Pyramid was built
about 2600.) The Sumerians were conquered by the Akkadian, Sargon (c. 2270) at
about the time India was being taken over by Aryans from Turkestan, who invaded through the Khyber Pass.
Meanwhile, the Minoan civilization was developing on the Aegean island of Crete. Very little is
known about the people in Europe, Russia, China, Oceana, America and most of Africa during this period. By 2230 the
Sumerians had thrown off the Akkadians and formed a second empire.
The Mesopotamians were polytheistic, but out of this culture Abram was called to
worship the one true God (monotheism) in Canaan (according to GN 12:1-2). Genesis says
that after a sojourn in Egypt because of a famine, Abram returned to Hebron, where he gave a tithe to a
priest named Melchizedek of Salem (later Jerusalem), who served him bread and wine (GN 14:18-20). Thirteen
years later God changed his name to Abraham and commanded that every male would be circumcised. After having
a son, Ishmael, by his slave, Hagar, Sarah bore Isaac, beginning a rivalry that has lasted through the ages.
On one occasion God tested Abraham’s faith by determining whether he was willing to sacrifice Isaac,
which some see as foreshadowing God’s provision of Messiah (GN 22:9-12).
sent his chief servant back to his relatives in Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. The servant found
Rebekah, who bore twins named Esau and Jacob. After obtaining legal right to Esau’s inheritance
by means of a ruse, Jacob fled to Mesopotamia, where he in turn was tricked into marrying Leah before being allowed to marry
Rachel (GN 29:18-27). The polygamous Jacob eventually had twelve sons by Leah, Rachel, and each of their
servants (whose progeny became twelve tribes) before moving back to Canaan. On the way he wrestled
with an angel in a dream, who changed his name to Israel and reiterated the Abrahamic covenant (GN 32:24-29).
Israel showed favoritism to Joseph, so the jealous brothers sold him to slave traders bound for Egypt, where
Joseph impressed the pharaoh and became his right-hand man, enabling him to provide for his family when they were forced to
seek food in Egypt during another famine.
We cannot be certain when the Hebrews moved to Egypt, but
it is likely that Joseph would have become a powerful person during the reign of the Hyksos, the foreign “shepherd”
kings, whose dynasty began about 1720. About this time in Mesopotamia, the Amorites conquered Sumeria
and established the first or Old Babylonian dynasty. The sixth king, Hammurapi, claimed to represent
the supreme God, Marduk. He established a caste system and a legal code with the main principle of “an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” After his death Babylon was captured briefly by the Hittites
about 1600 and then was ruled by the Kassites. In India the Aryans had also instituted a caste system
to prevent their race from intermarrying with the native Indians. They developed a written language called
Sanskrit. In the Aegean area there was brisk trade between the Minoans and Mycenaeans in Greece,
the city of Troy, the Egyptians, and the Phoenician city-states along the coast of Canaan. About 1400 the
Mycenaeans conquered the Minoans. In Russia the nomadic herdsmen known as Cimmerians lived in the
southern plains, and in China the Shang dynasty began about 1700, but still little is known about civilizations in
the Orient, Americas, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa.
Egypt, Ah-mose I led a successful rebellion against the Hyksos rulers and founded the New Kingdom and 18th
dynasty. His son, Amenhotep I (1546-1525) further suppressed all foreign influences. The
next pharaoh, Thutmose I (1525-1508) had no mentally competent sons, so his daughter, Hatshepsut, ruled by impersonating a
man for over twenty years. She was followed by Thutmose III (1479-1447), who extended Egypt’s dominion
to the Euphrates River and exacted tribute from the Hurrian Mittani rulers in Mesopotamia. The ninth pharaoh
of the New Kingdom, Amenhotep IV or Akhenaton (1369-1353), is noteworthy for attempting to change the Egyptian religion
to monotheism, which is called the “Amarna Revolution”. (At this time records speak
of Hittites gaining control of Syria and Habiru penetrating the area around Jerusalem. Meanwhile in Mesopotamia,
the Assyrians gained ascendance, annexing the Hurrians, Hittites and Kassites.) His son-in-law was Tutankhamen or "King
Tut" (1352-1344). Reactionary forces ousted the heretic pharaoh and began the 19th dynasty with
the one-year reign of Ramses I, then Seti I (1302-1290), whose son, Ramses II (1290-1224) is thought by many scholars to be
pharaoh during the Exodus led by Moses. Certainly the Exodus would have occurred no later, because
there is a stele erected during the reign of his son about 1220 that refers to a defeat of Israel in association with other
According to the books of Exodus
and Numbers, pharaoh let the Israelites go only after a series of ten plagues culminating with the death of the firstborn
male child in each house the angel of the Lord did not pass over. Moses led the Israelites to
Mt. Sinai, where he gave them the Ten Commandments, and then they journeyed toward Canaan. Along the way
God provided them with manna, water and safety from poisonous snakes, but at Kadesh occurred the great apostasy, which prevented
that generation from receiving the promised land (NM 14). During their sojourn in the wilderness, Moses
instituted the Jewish religion centered on the tabernacle (EX 25-27), which included the ark of atonement,
an incense altar, a bread table, menorah, laver, veil and brazen altar. The book of Leviticus instructs the
Levite priests about various offerings (including burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass) and rules (on uncleanness, blood,
sex, priests, feasts, jubilee, vows and tithes).
forty years later, Moses preached a series of sermons known as Deuteronomy, which included topics such as
the Decalogue, Shema and Covenant. Then he installed Joshua as his successor, who led the conquest of Canaan.
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites experienced several periods of subjugation by idolatrous pagans interspersed
with episodes of liberation by eleven judges including Deborah, Gideon and Samson. The capture of the
ark by the Philistines prompted the Israelites to petition the prophet Samuel to anoint a king, and Saul was
chosen (1SM 4-10) in about 1045. Saul was succeeded by David, who conquered Jerusalem and extended
the kingdom from Aqaba to Damascus (2SM 8 & 10). He is credited with writing most of Psalms,
many of which have messianic implications and show humility as a confessed sinner. David was succeeded
by his son, Solomon, whose reign (965-931) is the first rather firm date in the history of Israel. Solomon
built a guilded temple for the ark, but when he died the kingdom was divided between Jeroboam in Israel and Rehoboam in Judah
(1KG 12). Meanwhile in the Aegean, the Mycenaeans were conquered by Dorian invaders who founded
Sparta, and Philistines from Crete armed with iron weapons and chariots invaded the area of Gaza. In
America the Olmec civilization was in Mexico and the Chavin in Peru. Elsewhere, the Cimmerians
still dominated Russia, and the Shang dynasty ruled China.
In Israel, Omri established Samaria as his capital.
His son, Ahab, married the daughter of a Phoenecian king-priest, Jezebel, who made Baal-worship
the official religion, which led to a showdown with the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel (1KG 18). Ahab’s
successor, Jehu, is shown on his knees in 841 paying tribute to the Assyrian Shalmaneser III on the Black Obelisk
that is now in the British Museum. During the reign of Azariah/Uzziah, Amos was the first in a series
of prophets whose words were preserved separately from the accounts of the national history, including Hosea, the only
writing prophet from Israel, and Isaiah, who spoke of the Messiah and salvation of the Gentiles. About
this time around the Aegean, the Phoenecians founded Carthage (in 814), and the Etruscans invaded Italy.
Elsewhere, the Cimmerians were displaced by Scythians in Russia, the Vedas were being
written and collected in India, the feudalistic Chou dynasty began in China, and the Nok culture was in Nigeria.
Samaria fell to Shalmaneser V in 722, and the ten northern tribes
were exiled to various locations throughout the Assyrian Empire. In Judah, King Hezekiah was succeeded
by Manasseh and then Josiah, the most righteous king since David, who led a religious reform, probably encouraged by the prophet
Jeremiah, who followed Isaiah and may have written Kings (2KG 22:3, JR 1:2, 2CHR 34). Josiah
was killed in 609 by pharaoh Neco, who tried to prevent the Babylonians from conquering the Assyrians. In
Greece, the poet Homer (8th century?) wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. In
Africa, Egypt’s dynasties included the Theban, Memphite and Ethiopian kings before the Assyrian occupation (in 674-650),
which was followed by the 26th dynasty of the Saite kings.
In 586 Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem and took the upper classes of people
back to Babylon. He was succeeded by Amel-Marduk in 561. Apparently the prophet
Daniel was one of the exiles taken by Nebuchadnezzar, and a few years later Ezekiel was taken captive.
After the death of the Median king Cyaxares, Cyrus II of Persia overthrew the rule of Astyages about 550 and
issued an edict permitting the Jews and other captives to leave Babylon and return to their homelands. By
this time an important new Jewish institution had developed—the synagogue or school for studying the Mosaic Law—and
with it a new personality, the rabbi or teacher.
Meanwhile, in Greece the nascence of science can be marked by Thales’
(d.c. 545) attempt to find naturalistic explanations for phenomena and his concern about the most basic element composing
material substances. Pythagoras (c.525), a transmigrationist, marked the rise of mathematics,
viewing it as the essence of the world. About 500, Parmenides taught that being is eternal
and change is illusion, while Heraclitus said that all is in flux, opposites define each other, and the One
is world, symbolized by fire. During this period in India, Hinduism assimilated
new views collected in the Upanishads. Then Mahavira (d.527) founded an ascetic
sect known as Jainism and Siddhartha Gautama (d.483) founded Buddhism,
teaching the attainment of nirvana by means of meditation and enlightenment. In
China Lao Tzu (d.c.517) founded Taoism and Confucius (d.479) developed
his pragmatic philosophy. In Japan, Shinto ancestor worship existed during the
Yamato dynasty (b.660). In Persia the preaching of Zoroaster (d.c.551) was incorporated
in the Avesta, which shows affinities with the Rig-Veda. From Carthage about 520,
explorers sailed around the coast of Africa as far as Sierra Leone.
The return of the Jewish exiles apparently occurred
in five stages. First, Sheshbazzar returned and began work on the foundations of a new temple.
Second, during the reign of Darius I (522-486) Zerubbabel led an attempt to restore the temple that was stymied by
Samaritan opposition. During the reign of the next king, Xerxes (486-465), the events in the book of Esther
occurred. Third, during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425), Nehemiah was appointed governor of
Judah and allowed to rebuild Jerusalem’s city wall (NEH 2:1-20 & 6:15). Fourth, work on the temple
began again during the reign of King Darius II (423-404) and also during the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah
(EZR 4:24-5:2, HAG 1:1-15, ZCH 1:1-17, 4:6-10 & 8:9-15). Finally, during the reign of king Artaxerxes
II (404-359), Ezra the priest led an expedition from Babylon and reinstituted Judaism.
He apparently ignored the messianic prophecies, which set the stage for conflict between the Pharisees and Christians.
About this time Malachi wrote what proved to be the last book in the OT canon.
In 500 a rebellion against Persian rule by the Greek cities in Lydia/Ionia was
abetted by Athens, so Darius I attempted to conquer Greece. However, his army was defeated at a
battle on the plains of Marathon in 490. His son Xerxes marched an army across the Dardanelles Strait (Hellespont)
on a pontoon bridge in 480, but his navy was defeated in the Bay of Salamis, so he had to abort the attack. In
order to be prepared for future Persian attacks, Athens formed an alliance called the Delian league, which won another naval
victory over the Persian fleet defending Ionia in 468. This prompted Sparta to form a league, which fought
the Peloponnesian War with the Delian league from 431-404 with Persian financial aid. Both sides
were so weakened that they were easily conquered by Philip of Macedon in 338.
The period before Philip’s conquest was a golden age, which included work by Pericles (statesman), Herodotus
and Thucydides (historians), Sophocles and Euripedes (dramatists), Euclid (mathematicians), and Hippocrates (medical doctor).
In philosophy, Anaxorgas (c.430) was the first atomic theorist, although he also believed in a cosmic
nous, and Protagoras (d.420) was a sophist, relativist, and (secular) humanist,
saying that “man is the measure of all things”. He was opposed by Socrates
(d.399), who utilized a dialectic method using inductive logic, and who said “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Antisthenes, a student of Socrates, noted that every definition is tautolotical and descriptive, and
along with Diogenes (d.325) is viewed as founding Cynicism, which preached asceticism and
the debunking of customs that substitute for morals. Another student of Socrates was Plato
(427-347), who wrote Dialogues and The Republic, and who founded a school called the Academy about 387.
He viewed himself as a gadfly for truth and taught that God is good, and good is absolute. He believed
in eternal Ideas/Forms, four virtues, and three social classes. His pupil was Aristotle,
who wrote Nichomean Ethics, advocating the “golden mean” and saying that happiness accompanies virtuous
activity. He differed with Plato in saying that universals do not exist independently of particular entities
(a debate which dominated medieval philosophy). He established a school called the Lyceum in 335, and was
hired by Philip to tutor Alexander. Epicurus (c.310) taught atomism, the finality of death,
and that pleasure and pain are the determiners of what is good and bad. Influenced by the Cynics, Zeno
(c. 301) founded Stoicism by preaching that virtue consists in aligning desire with the universal deterministic
Alexander was a great military commander. He became
king in 336 at the age of twenty when his father was assassinated, and he carried out his father’s dream of conquering
the Persian Empire. He led his army across the Hellespont and defeated the Persian army at the Battle of
Issus in 333. Then he marched along the coast, where Tyre finally succumbed after a seven month siege.
Next he marched to Egypt, where he was welcomed by the populace as a liberator. Returning northward,
Alexander’s forces won another major battle with the Persians at Gaugamela on the way to Babylon in 331.
Not yet content, he attempted to invade India but died of a fever in 323. When Alexander died,
the empire fractured and was fought over by his generals. As the struggle progressed, the one with
the most territory was Seleucus, who controlled the region from Asia Minor to the Indus. His chief rival
was Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt and Palestine. To the east, the region of Bactria was allowed to drift out
of the Seleucid Empire, and Chandragupta Maurya established an indigenous empire in India. Elsewhere
in the world, the Mayan civilization developed in the Yucatan peninsula, and in Africa the Kushite kingdom in Nubia had a
thriving trade with merchants as far away as China via the Indian Ocean.
To the west of the Seleucid Empire, Greece again became divided into various city-states and leagues.
Further west, the Roman Republic gained control of the Italian peninsula in 270 when it annexed the Greek cities
in the southern tip. Carthage dominated the western Mediterranean and soon was fighting Rome over the islands
of Sicily, Sardina and Corsica in a series of battles called the Punic Wars from 264 until 202, when Rome finally won.
During this time in Alexandria, about seventy Jewish scholars created the Septuagint translation
of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Rome defeated Philip V
(who had supported Hannibal’s invasion of Italy from Spain in 218) in 197. Then Rome attacked the
Seleucid king, Antiochus III (who had provided Hannibal refuge in Antioch after he was defeated by Scipio in 202), when he
tried to invade Greece in 192, and forced him to surrender his navy and most of Asia Minor. His successor,
Antiochus IV or Epiphanes (“god manifest”) tried to conquer the Ptolemaic Empire in 167, but he was intercepted
by a Roman envoy, who drew a circle on the ground around Antiochus and demanded that he promise to withdraw before stepping
outside of it. Antiochus promised. Later that same year, Antiochus’ response to
civil unrest in Jerusalem was vicious. He endeavored to suppress Judaism by outlawing circumcision, observance
of the Sabbath, and possession of the OT Scriptures. An altar to Zeus was erected in the temple, and on
it unclean animals such as swine were sacrificed. This abomination provoked a rebellion, which is described
in the apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees. Judas Maccabeus (“the hammer”)
led a guerilla group that captured Jerusalem in 164, cleansing the Temple, which is commemorated by the festival of Hanukkah.
His brother Simon proclaimed himself head of a Jewish state in 142, thus establishing the Hasmonean dynasty.
The supporters of the Hasmonean priesthood eventually became the party known as the Sadducees, and
another group (called the Hasidim or pious ones) resisted Hellenization of the Jewish culture and eventually became the Pharisees
and Essenes. These two groups struggled for domination until Rome made Palestine a province
In 146 Rome burned Carthage, massacred
its inhabitants and sewed the ground with salt. That same year Rome also destroyed Corinth and conquered
Greece. In 133, Asia Minor became Rome’s eighth province. However, at the same
time the Roman Republic was gaining wealth and territory, it was becoming morally and politically corrupt. Between
133 and 121 two Gracchus brothers tried to institute reforms that would return land to the plebians, but they were killed
by members of the patrician senate. Civil war broke out between the General Assembly led by Marius and
the Senate led by Sulla, who prevailed in 82. When Sulla stepped down in 79, a period of unrest followed
until a triumvirate of consuls (Pompey, Julius Caesar and Crassus) established order in 60. After
Crassus was killed while leading his army in Asia, Pompey influenced the Senate to disband Caesar’s army in 49.
Instead, Caesar led it across the Rubicon River into Italy, so Pompey fled to Greece and then to Egypt, where he was
killed by Ptolemy XIII, and Caesar became dictator until he was murdered in 44 by a conspiracy that wanted to return to the
republican form of government. Caesar’s son, Octavian, and Mark Antony defeated the conspirators
and ruled jointly for ten years. They proclaimed Herod of Idumea (Edom) king of Judea in 40 and sent Sosius
to recapture Jerusalem for him. When it appeared as if Mark Antony intended to establish an independent
empire with Cleopatra in Egypt, Octavian attacked and defeated their navies at the Battle of Actium in 30, whereupon they
committed suicide. Octavian took the name Augustus and ruled as the first Roman emperor.
This began a period of peace and prosperity known as the Pax Romana, which continued until the death of Marcus
Aurelius in 180 A.D.
When Herod died in 4 B.C.,
his will divided the kingdom between his sons Archelaus in Judea and Samaria, Antipas in Galilee and Perea, and Philip in
the area north and east of Galilee. The stage was set for arguably the most important event in the history
of the world regarding ultimate reality and the central piece of the puzzle surrounded by this framework, referred to
by Paul as "the fullness of time” (GL 4:4, EPH 1:10). The people God had chosen
to provide the physical ancestry of Messiah were located at the geo-political center of the world, the OT canon had been completed,
this area of the world had one language (koine Greek) in which to communicate the gospel, and the Pax Romana provided
a favorable political climate for the growth of the Christian belief in a God who loves all humanity.
So, in fulfillment of prophecies by Malachi (4:5) and Isaiah (40:3), John
the Baptist began to preach as the last prophet of the Old Covenant (MT 3:1, LK 3:1-3, JN 1:6&15).
The theme of his preaching was simply “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”, referring to the coming
of Messiah/Christ, which many view as the climax of history, because it has dominated the history of beliefs
ever since. The New Testament teaches God's love for all including enemies and that
Messiah’s vicarious atonement and ascension to heaven is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation.
The Mosaic sacrificial laws were fulfilled when Jesus was slain as the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of humanity (RV
5:5-14, 13:8). All other beliefs in history may be viewed as either preparatory for or reactionary to this Gospel (Good
News about salvation).
From Christ to the Renaissance and Reformation
Following the death (and resurrection per the NT) of Christ Jesus about 30 A.D. (all dates will be
A.D. unless noted otherwise) during the reign of the Roman emperor (RE, used also for Roman Empire) Tiberius, Paul
the Apostle began his missionary travels about 45 during the reign of Claudius, two years after the Roman conquest
of Britain. Paul taught that the Gentiles were included in God’s Gospel or plan of salvation for
humanity, so that all believers in Jesus as Messiah were chosen people, destined for heaven. In contrast with the Christian
concept of salvation as resurrection to eternal consciousness in heaven, in China the emperor introduced Buddhism
(in 58), which taught that salvation or Nirvana is obtained by being released from self-consciousness (via enlightenment
during this life, aided by meditation on teachings of the Buddha, Gautama), that continues after death. The third option
of atheism and no salvation was represented by the pagan RE Nero, who instituted the persecution of Christians, murdering St.
Peter and probably St. Paul in 67, about the time Mark’s Gospel was written (which seems to have been before
the destruction of Jerusalem in 70, since that event was not mentioned). The Gospels of
Matthew and Luke incorporated much of Mark’s version of the life and teachings of Jesus that emphasized his humanity,
while the Gospel of John was a later and more theological work, emphasizing that Jesus was Messiah or God incarnate.
Under RE Trajan, the empire reached its greatest extent by 116. Justin Martyr (d.166)
maintained that Plato knew the Torah and that the Logos is Christ. Irenaeus (c.180) advocated
doctrinal unity by submission to the authority of bishops and councils in opposition to heresy, such as the attempt by Valentinus
to align Christianity with Platonic philosophy. As the bishop of Rome gained a predominant position among
Christian churches by 200, the New Testament (not yet canonized) teaching regarding salvation via personal
faith in Jesus as Lord and obedience to his command for universal love was supplanted by a belief that stressed conformity
to the interpretation and authority of Roman Catholicism (RC). Tertullian
(d.c.220) was the first person to speak of God as a Trinity. He became a follower of Montanism,
which taught continuing ecstatic prophecy was equally as authoritative as the doctrines of the original apostles.
Origen (d.254) wrote De principiis, interpreting scripture allegorically and espousing universal
salvation. About 260, Plotinus wrote the Enneads, the founding document of Neo-Platonism,
which taught that there is a transcendent “One” that is beyond being, although we identify it with Good and Beauty,
and that existents emanate from the One in succeeding stages of declining perfection from nous (logos, reason) to
world soul to human soul to matter. About 310, Apollinarius maintained that Christ was
God incarnate in opposition to Arius, who denied that Christ was eternally begotten of God.
Trajan, the RE declined as non-Christian (pagan or heathen) Germanic
tribes (Goths, Franks, Alemanni, Saxons, Thuringians, etc.) gained strength. Germanic and Norse
religion was polytheistic, with Odin as chief god. Its earliest extant source document is the
Eddas (probably composed about 850). During the reign of Diocletian, the RE was divided east and
west in 285, until it was reunited by Constantine in 308, who ended the persecution of Christians with an edict
in 313. He moved the capitol to Constantinople in 331.
In 386, Augustine
decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, returning from Milan to Carthage before settling in Hippo and writing prolifically
until his death in 430 what became the dominant RC theology. Especially significant were
his doctrines regarding original sin, predestination, infant baptism and papal supremacy. RC theology was
dominant in Christendom through the Middle Ages until the Protestant Reformation. The Christological controversy
continued with Nestorius opposed to calling Mary the “mother of God” because it denied Jesus’
humanity, prompting Cyril of Alexandria to convene the Council of Ephesus in 431.
After the death
of Theodosius I in 395, the RE was redivided permanently, and the western part weakened as Rome was sacked by Visigoths
from Dacia (Romania) in 410 (before they established a kingdom in Gaul and Spain in 419), then in 455 by Vandals from the
Baltic area (who had migrated across Europe to Spain and then across the straits of Gibraltar and eastward along the African
coast as far as Sicily by 429). These migrations may have been motivated by the Huns, who migrated
from Mongolia across the Volga in 372, defeating the Ostrogoths in the Ukraine and travelling as far as Gaul before attacking
Italy in 452. Their religion may have been Tengriism, about which little is known until
the time of the Mongols, but it revered the god of the sky or heaven.
The Roman part of the empire
ended in 476, when Italy was captured by Germans led by Odoacer.
Pope Felix III excommunicated Patriarch Acacius in 484, causing a schism in Christendom until 519. Odoacer
was deposed in 493 by Ostrogoths allied with the eastern or Byzantine Empire (BE). Their king, Theodoric,
married a sister of Clovis in France, and his sister married the Vandal king (implying alliances or at least truces).
During his reign, Boethius translated the works of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid and Ptolemy.
He discussed whether universal concepts only exist as ideas, and he expounded on topics of the quadrivium—arithmetic,
geometry, astronomy and music. He was arrested for treason and wrote The Consolation of Philosophy
before being executed in 524.
In 529, the BE Justinian I closed the Athens School of Philosophy. His General Belisarius
took North Africa in 533 and Italy in 535, then began a series of wars with the Sassanids in Persia in 539. In
542, a plague in Constantinople spread and halved the population of Europe before ending in 594. Justinian sent
missionaries to China in 552, who smuggled out silkworms. That year Japanese prehistory ended and the Asuka
period began when the emperor introduced Buddhism. The barbarian migrations ended about 600
with the Czechs and Slovaks in Bohemia, the Yugoslavs in Serbia, Lombards in Italy, Visigoths in Spain, and Franks in France.
In that year, books were printed in China, and smallpox arrived in Europe from India.
At this time in
the Middle East, Christianity had dissipated and left a spiritual vacuum that was filled by the teachings of the beliefs
of Mohammed, who in 610 had a vision on Mt. Hira, then fled from Mecca to Medina in 622 (the first year
of the Muslim calendar), where he dictated the Qu’ran. In 614-619, Persia conquered
Damascus, Jerusalem and Egypt. About this time in China, porcelain was produced, orchestras were
formed and exams used scientific textbooks. In 628, Mohammed began Islam’s expansion via forced
conversion by capturing Mecca, where he taught five “pillars”: faith, prayer, alms, fasting
and pilgrimage. He stressed the oneness of God and claimed to be God’s last and greatest prophet
before he died in 632 (the year Buddhism became the state religion in Tibet).
In 634, the Muslim caliph Omar
I took Syria and Egypt and defeated BE forces. He made Damascus the capital of his caliphate
in 635. In 641, Omar captured Persia and suppressed Zoroasterianism, which taught that
humans should exercise volition to have good thoughts, words and deeds, thereby participating with the god Ahura Mazda in
a cosmic struggle against chaos and falsehood. Omar also closed the library and school in Alexandria.
In 643, the Muslims took Tripoli and built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. They
took Cyprus in 649. In 660, the Omayyad dynasty took over the Caliphate and expanded to the Indus River
by 674, while RC Christendom “fiddled” with the Monothelitism controversy (622-680), which debated
whether Christ Jesus had one (human) or two (also divine) wills. The Muslims took Armenia in 694 and
Algiers in 700, then Spain in 711-716. During this time the population of China was “exploding”,
and Ch’ang-an (capitol of the Han, Sui and Tang dynasties near present-day Xi’an) became the largest city in the
world, followed by Constantinople.
In 715, the Muslim Empire extended from the Pyrenees to China, and in 717 tax exemption was granted to all believers.
However, Charles Martel of France decisively defeated them in 732, which halted the Islamic advance from the direction
of Spain. At this time Boniface was working to eliminate heathenism northeast of the Rhine
River, and the BE was threatened by Bulgarians. In 750, the Abbasids won the Muslim Caliphate and defeated
China in the Battle of Samarkind in 751, where the Arabs learned how to make paper. Pepin of France
made Lombardy a vassal state and granted land (the Papal State) to the popes. In 763, the Caliphate
capitol was moved to Baghdad, where Indian numerals became used.
In 771, Charlemagne inherited the Frankish kingdom
and annexed Saxony, Lombardy and Bavaria before being crowned Holy Roman Emperor (HRE, also “Empire”) in 800,
when Pope Leo III separated RC from the BE (again, see 484). The monastery school at Tours became a university
under Alcuin. Meanwhile, Vikings or Norsemen attacked Britain, Ireland and Germany, and the Arabs experienced
a golden scientific age. In 826, the king of Denmark converted to RC, opening the door for its spread
to Scandinavia, while the Muslims took Crete and attacked Sardinia and Sicily. In 843, the Treaty of
Verdun divided the Frankish Empire into French, German and Italian dynasties. The head of the French
palace school was the Irishman, Johannes Erigena, who wrote The Divisions of Nature.
He was a Neo-Platonist, who translated the writings of Dionysius, revived the nominalist (universals) debate and advocated
universal salvation and process theology.
The Muslims sacked Rome in 846. In 850, Norsemen took
Kiev. They discovered Iceland in 861 and attacked Constantinople via the Black Sea in 865 (and again
in 904 and 941). Cyril invented a Slavic alphabet in Moravia in 863. By 900, the Vikings
discovered Greenland, the Mayas in Mexico migrated to the Yucatan, and European hereditary fiefdoms protected by the
forces of lords living in castles proliferated. In 904, the papal “pornocracy” began,
and in 907 the Magyars (formerly Huns?) in Hungary defeated the Moravian empire and raided Germany and Italy.
In China, a new capitol was established at Yenching (Peking) in 938.
In 951, Otto I of Germany became
king of the Franks and Lombards also, and was crowned HRE in 962. The Poles converted to RC in 966.
Universities were founded at Cordoba in 968 and at Cairo in 972. A Chinese encyclopedia of 1,000
volumes was compiled in 978-984. Venice and Genoa were trading centers between Europe and Asia.
Eastern Catholicism was accepted by Kiev (Russia) in 988.
By 1000, RC had reached Greenland,
and Judaism (see this Summary before Christ) was strongest in Spain. The Mayan civilization was at its
height, and China invented gunpowder. The Danes (see 826) deposed the English king in 1013, and they conquered
Norway in 1028. The Caliphate in Cordoba was abolished in 1031, and the Seljuk Turks gained strength in
Turkestan in 1042. In 1054, the schism between RC and what became Eastern Orthodoxy, due mainly
to its rejection of the primacy of the Pope, became permanent (“Great”).
In 1060, Anselm
of Canterbury joined Lanfranc at the Bendictine Abbey in Bec, where he wrote philosophical tracts, such as
De incarnation Verbi (reconciling divine foreknowledge with human free will), and logical arguments for the existence
of God, such as Proslogion (including the ontological argument: God is the first cause and greatest
conceivable being). In 1062, Berengar of Tours opposed the RC doctrine of transubstantiation
(the communion bread and wine becoming the physical body and blood of Christ) for being irrational. The
Danes in England were defeated by William of Normandy in 1066 (the year of Halley’s comet). Poland
(see 966) took Kiev in 1067, and China nationalized agriculture in 1068. The Normans conquered Italy in
1071, and the Mesa Verde culture existed in America. The Seljuks conquered Armenia in 1064 and Syria-Palestine
in 1075. HRE Henry IV tired of being twice excommunicated, so he stormed Rome and imprisoned the Pope in
El Cid took Valencia from the Muslim Moors in 1094, and Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade
in 1095, which took Jerusalem from the Seljuks in 1099. In 1113, the order of Knights Hospitalers was
organized in order to protect a hospital for pilgrims. In 1141, Peter Abelard’s
ideas were condemned by a council called by Bernard of Clairvaux. Abelard wrote Sic et Non, which
utilized the dialectical method of stating pros and cons. He defined sin as bad intention, and affirmed
a nominalist position (which views only individuals as existing) in the debate over universals.
About 1175, Peter
Waldo of Lyons began preaching poverty as the way to perfection. He translated the Bible from Latin into the
regional French dialect and founded a movement (in SE France and NW Italy) that presaged the reform of Luther.
About this time in Spain, Avicebron published neo-Platonist ideas, including that God can be apprehended
only by intuition or mystical experience, not by reason. In 1182, Jews were banished from France.
In 1185, the order of Knights Templars was formed for the purpose of protecting pilgrims on the route from Jaffa to
the Temple Mount. About 1200, Moses Maimonides, who fled from Spain to Cairo, attempted
to align theology with Aristotelianism, saying that if statements in the OT contradict reason, then they should be interpreted
allegorically, and identifying God as first Mover and necessary Being (cf. Anselm). His views influenced
Jewish kabbalistic philosophy collected in the Zohar, by Moses de Leon.
In 1204, the
Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople, and in 1209 Pope Innocent III authorized the Albigensian Crusade
against the Cathar heresy in France, which effectively began the period of the Inquisition (that
continued with the prohibition of Bible reading in Toulouse in 1229). In 1214, Ghengis Khan (a shamanist
who was tolerant of other religions) captured Peking, then Persia in 1218. In 1215, King John signed
the English Magna Carta, establishing the rule of law and certain civil rights, the same year the order
of Dominicans was founded for the purpose of combating heresy, and in 1233 it was assigned to lead the Inquisition, joined
later by the Franciscans.
In 1258, the Mongols under Kublai Khan capture Baghdad, and the
House of Commons was established in England, where Roger Bacon advocated for the study of theology to focus
on the Bible in the original languages rather on scholastic debates. His legacy also includes an interest
in scientific experiments, discoveries and inventions. In 1271, the ninth and final crusade led
by Prince Edward of England was defeated by the Mamluks in Egypt. In 1273, Thomas Aquinas (a
former student of Albertus Magnus) published Summa theological, which supplanted Augustinianism
as the dominant RC theology. Notable doctrines included natural revelation, analogical language, and
the cosmological and teleological arguments for God’s existence. In 1283, the Teutonic Order subjugated
Prussia. In 1295, Marco Polo returned to Italy from China via the Mongol court.
William of Occam published his Summa logicae, in which he espoused his “razor” principle:
the simplest explanation should be used. In 1337, The Hundred Years War between France and England
began. In 1341, Francesco Petrarch was honored in Rome for his poetry, and his theistic
humanism (faith that God gives all knowledge) contributed to the Renaissance. In 1347 the Black
Death (bubonic plague) devastated Europe (cf. 600). In Mexico, the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan
in 1364, and in China, the Ming dynasty overthrew the Mongols and restored the Great Wall in 1368, but Timur (Tamerlaine)
established a Mongol dictatorship in Turkestan at Samarkand.
In 1377, John Wyclif opposed RC, especially
its dogma of transubstantiation, and translated the Bible (which he viewed as inerrant when interpreted correctly)
into English in 1382. Byzantium lost Asia Minor to the Turks in 1390, then Timur defeated the Turks
in 1401. In 1415, Jan Hus, who had tried to reform RC in Bohemia as Wyclif had in England,
was burned at the stake. His disciples included the Taborites, the Bohemian Brethren and the Moravians
as well as Martin Luther. About this time in Spain, Joseph Albo sought to correct the
teachings of Maimonides by eliminating the doctrine of Messiah as essential to Judaism, stressing instead divine justice,
even as Thomas a Kempis published The Imitation of Christ. In 1431, Joan of
Arc was burned at the stake by her English captors, ostensibly for heresy, and in 1441, Portugal renewed the slave trade
with Africa. About this time, the Incas subdued Peru.
In 1453, the Hundred Years War concluded,
and the Turks captured Constantinople (ending the Byzantine Empire), then took Athens, Bosnia and Herzegovina by 1467.
The exodus of Byzantine scholars to Italy, the patronage of Cosimo Medici, the humanism of
Marsilio Ficino (director of a Platonist Academy founded by Medici in 1439), and Gutenberg’s printing
press (1450) combined to promote a Renaissance centered in Florence. In 1479,
Ferdinand and Isabella unified Spain and cooperated with the RC Inquisition, and in 1480, Ivan III became
Czar of Russia. In 1492, Spain expelled the Jews and conquered Granada, while Columbus
sailed to the Bahamas in America. The next year, the Turks invaded Croatia and encroached upon Italy. Meanwhile,
Leonardo da Vinci worked in Florence as an inventor and painter, and the Portuguese explored ever further
along the west coast of Africa, finding a sea route to India in 1498.
In 1501, a papal bull ordered
the burning of books that undermined RC authority, and Erasmus published The Handbook of the
Christian Soldier, calling for reformation by reading the Scriptures. However, he tried to remain
neutral in the Reformation, and his fellow humanist, Thomas More (author of Utopia in 1516), actively
opposed Lutheranism and apparently approved of the torture and burning of heretics. Other events of interest during
this period included Michelangelo's David sculpture in 1504, Copernicus'
discovery of the heliocentric solar system in 1512, and Portuguese explorers' reaching China by sea in 1514.
In 1517, Machiavelli wrote Il Principe, and Martin Luther protested the
sale of indulgences by nailing 95 theses on a church door, beginning the Protestant Reformation in Germany.