CH101 - The Third Century

The Expansion of the Church, 202 - 303 A.D.

The Severan Persecution
Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
The Decian Persecution
Cyprian, Bishops and Pope
New Testament Canon, Part 5
The Issue of the Trinity
The Church Prospers
Key People:
Emperor Diocletian
Key Documents:
Protrepticus-The Exhortation
Paidagogus-The Tutor
On First Principles
Contra Celsum
On the Lapsed
On the Unity of the Church

The Empire Reorganized - The Church Prospers
In 257/258 AD Emporer Valerian issued edicts against the Christians. This series of persecution was not a general attack as had come from Decius. This was targeted at the bishops and the upper class Christians.

In the 260's the borders of the empire were being breached by barbarian tribes. The peace and security of the Roman Empire was threatened on every side. Emperor Gallienus sought to keep things in order - he could not protect the outer regions, so regional legions did their best. Territory was lost around the edges, but the empire was held intact.

In 261 Valerian was taken prisoner by the Persians and Gallienus became the sole emperor. Weary of the violence against Christians, Gallienus issued an edict of toleration which basically stated that Christians should be free to assemble without fear and their properties should be returned to them and protected from confiscation.

In 284 Diocletian became the emperor, and to push back the encroachments of the barbarians, Diocletian brings Maximian into his confidence. The two men rule the empire as a team, Diocletian ruling in the east and Maximian in the west. In addition, both men took on a prince so that, in effect, there were now 4 emperors, each waging war against the barbarian hordes in a different region of the empire. The important fact to know here is that Maximian selected Constantius to be his prince. He ruled over Gaul and Britain and would have a famous son, known as Constantine the Great.

After the borders of the empire were basically restored, Diocletian went about rebuilding the financial status of the empire. Standard coinage and regulated pricing was established; taxes were increased which brought in record revenues, but the military also had grown, needing more of this new funding. To secure his legacy, Diocletian started several building programs.

The Church Prospers
By the year 300 AD, according to Eusebius, there were 40 churches in Rome. The third Christian century was coming to a good close - everything was good - the church was growing, church buildings were getting larger, and the Church was financially prosperous. The peace of Rome was good and the Christian Church was enjoying being a legitimate part of that peace.

For the 40 years after Gallienus issued his edict of toleration the church prospered. Christians were to be found at every level of society and serving in every level of government, even serving in the military with many becoming officers. With a wink and a nod Christians serving as governmental officials and military leaders were allowed to avoid making the normal loyalty sacrifices to Rome.

If the third century ended well, the fourth century would begin with equal trauma. Possibly one of the worst of the Roman persecutions was coming and it was completely unexpected.

Questions, Comments or Criticisms:
You can send an email to directly to me Al Baker, CH101.
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Third Century Church History
3rd Century Church Heresies
Severe Roman Persecution of Christians
Third Century Christian Baptism
Third Century Bishops
Third Century Church Fathers
3rd Century Christianity
Clement of Alexandria and Heresy
Clement of Alexandria and The Instructor
3rd Century Fathers - Christianity
Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
Decian Persecutions
Cyprian on The Lapsed
Bishop Cyprian - Novatians
Cyprian - Lapsed Christians
Clement of Alexandria and Prayer
Clement of Alexandria and Prayer
Third Century Christian History
The Trinity in the 3rd Century
Paidagogus - Stromateis - Miscellanies
Origen - De Principii - Principles
Paul of Samosata - Trinity
New Testament Canon, Canonized
Questions regarding Christian Issues
Clement of Alexandria and The Trinity
Clement of Alexandria and Contemplation
Third Century Christian Issues
Diocletian Persecution of Christians
Diocletian Persecutes Early Church
Novatian Baptism - Cyprian of Carthage
Early Christianity New Testament
Early Christianity Constantine and War
Important Issues in Early Christianity
Clement of Alexandria and Stromateis
Stromata, Miscellanies or Stromateis