Timelines and Early Church History

By COGwriter

Timelines of Major Biblical Events

Adam and Eve created and/or being put out of the Garden of Eden. 3969-3980 B.C. (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?)
Noah's in the Ark c. 2325 B.C. (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?)
Children of Israel entering Egypt c. 1876 B.C. (see When was the Exodus?)
Exodus from Egypt c. 1446 B.C. (see When was the Exodus?)
Beginning of Reign of King Saul c. 1010 B.C.
Beginning of Reign of Solomon c. 970 B.C. (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?)
Antiochus Epiphanes destroys the second Temple 167 B.C. (relates to prophecies in Daniel 9)
Birth of Jesus c. 4 B.C.
John the Baptist starts his ministry c. 26 A.D. (cf. Luke 3:1-3)
Resurrection of Jesus c. 31 A.D.
(cf. Luke 3:23 and Calculated or observed calendar?)
Pentecost of Acts 2 c. 31 A.D. (cf. Luke 3:23 and Calculated or observed calendar?)
Writing the Book of Revelation c. 90-96 A.D. (see The Dangerous Rise of Preterists).

(Why the Jews and some others use different years is in the articles Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End? and When was the Exodus?).

Reigns of the Emperors of Rome in the Time of Early Christianity

(31 or) 27 B.C. - 14 A.D. Emperor Augustus
Emperor Tiberius (14-37); note his initial reign began c. 12 A.D.*
Emperor Caligula (37-41).
Emperor Claudius (41-54).
Emperor Nero (54-68).
Emperor Otho (69).
Emperor Vitellius (69).
Emperor Vaspasian (69-70).
Emperor Titus (79-81).
Emperor Domitian (81-96).
Emperor Trajan (98-117).
Emperor Hadrian (117-138)
Emperor Antoninus Pius (AKA Titus Ælius Hadrianus Antoninus) (138-161).
Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
Emperor Lucius Verus (161-169).
Emperor Commodus (177/180-192).
Emperor Pertinax (193).
Emperor Didius Julianus (193).
Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).
Emperor Caracalla (198/212-217).
Emperor Macrinus (217-218).
Emperor Elagabalus (218-222).
Emperor Severus Alexander (222-235).
Emperor Maximinus (235-238).
Emperor Gordian I and II (238).
Balbinus and Pupienus (238).
Emperor Gordian III (238 - 244).
Emperor Philip the Arab (244-249).
Emperor Decius (249-251).
Emperor Gallus (251-253).
Emperor Valerian (253 - 260).
Emperor Gallienus (254-268).
Emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270).
Emperor Aurelian (270-275).

Sources: Ehrman B. From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, Part 2. The Teaching Company, Chantilly (VA), 2004, p.49; Imperial Dates. From N.S. Gill, Your Guide to Ancient / Classical History. Table of dates of the Roman Emperors from Augustus to Romulus Augustulus. ©2006 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company.

* Notice the following explanation:

The Reign of Emperor Tiberius

One of the most vital keys to the chronology of Christ's ministry — and yet one of the most universally misunderstood dates — is the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Luke tells us that John the Baptist began to preach in his 15th year (Luke 3:1).

When was this fifteenth year?

The trouble arises from the fact that there are at least two dates from which the reign of Tiberius Caesar may be counted — the first commences with his being made co-ruler with Augustus Caesar, at the very end of A.D. 11 or the beginning of A.D. 12. The exact month is not known, but it is not essential anyway. The second date begins with his sole rule in August, A.D. 14.

Luke could have used either date and been historically correct. But which one did he use?

To be consistent with all the other facts, Luke must have used the earlier date as the beginning of the reign of Tiberius. In fact, for the word "reign" Luke uses a Greek word meaning "government" in general, indicating that he did not mean his sole emperorship, but merely his elevation to joint authority — about the end of A.D. 11 or beginning of A.D. 12.

In determining the emperor's regnal year, Luke used the customary Jewish form, practiced also by Josephus. "Josephus also... in order to avoid making the last year of one emperor coincide with the first year of his successor, reckoned the final year of each emperor as continuing to the end of the current year, and made the first year of his successor begin [in) April following his accession," says the competent scholar W. M. Ramscy in his book Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?, page 223.

This method which has but recently been understood, was used by Luke also to determine imperial joint reigns. The first year of the joint reign of Tiberius would extend from about April 12 A.D. to April 13 A.D. His fifteenth year would extend from about April 26 A.D. to April 27 A.D. (Hoeh H. The CRUCIFIXION was not on "Good Friday"! Plain Truth, March 1956)

The coregency is discussed in the writings of the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (c. 69 – after 122 AD):

Since the consuls caused a law to be passed soon after this that he should govern the provinces jointly with Augustus and hold the census with him, he set out for Illyricum on the conclusion of the lustral ceremonies; but he was at once recalled, and finding Augustus in his last illness but still alive, he spent an entire day with him in private." (Suetonius. Delphi Complete Works of Suetonius (Illustrated) Volume 15 of Delphi Ancient Classics. Delphi Classics, 2013)

Orthodox Church - Syriac Antioch

The Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church both claim an apostolic succession from Antioch. Here is the Syriac list:

1 St. Peter the Apostle 37-67
2 St. Evodius 67-68
3 St. Ignatios I Nurono (the Illuminator) 68-107
4 St. Heron 107-127
5 St. Korneilos 127-154
6 St. Heros 154-169
7 St. Theophilos 169-182
8 St. Maximos I 182-191
9 St. Seraphion 191-211
10 St. Ascelpiadis the Confessor 211-220
11 Philitus 220-231
12 Zbina 231-237
13 St. Babulas the Martyr 237-251
14 Fabius 251-254
15 S. Demetrianos 254-260
16 Paul I of Samosate 260-268
17 Domnus I 268-273

Source: Syriac Orthodox Resources. Chronological List of the Patriarchs of Antioch. http://sor.cua.edu/Patriarchate/PatriarchsChronList.html 03/19/06.

It should be noted that many historians doubt the accuracy of the early portion of the above list (please see the article Apostolic Succession).

Related articles: Peter, Ignatius and the Sabbath, Theophilus of Antioch, and Serapion of Antioch.

Here is the list from the Eastern Orthodox Church of Antioch, called the Antiochian Orthodox Church:

1 45-53 The Episcopacy of St. Peter, the Apostle, in Antioch.

2 53 The Episcopacy of Eudoius in Antioch.

3 68 The Episcopacy of St. Ignatius (d. 107) in Antioch.

4 100 The Episcopacy of Heros in Antioch.

5 127 The Episcopacy of Cornelius in Antioch.

6 151 The Episcopacy of Heros II in Antioch.

7 169 The Episcopacy of Theophilus (d. 181/182) in Antioch.

8 188 The Episcopacy of Maximianus (d. 190/191) in Antioch.

9 191-212 The Episcopacy of Serapion in Antioch.

10 212-218 The Episcopacy of Aslipiades in Antioch.

11 218-231 The Episcopacy of Philetus in Antioch.

12 232 The Episcopacy of Zebinus (a.k.a. Zenobius) in Antioch.

13 240 The Episcopacy of St. Babylas in Antioch.

14 253 The Episcopacy of Fabius in Antioch.

15 256 The Episcopacy of Demetrian in Antioch.

16 263 The Episcopacy of Amphilochius in Antioch.

17 267 The Episcopacy of Paul of Samosata in Antioch.

18 270 The Episcopacy of Dmonus in Antioch.

Source: Primates of the Apostolic See of Antioch (Orthodox Succession) http://www.antiochian.org/667 5/14/06

Claimed List of Popes of the Roman Catholic Church

While visiting the Vatican in 2004, I purchased a book in its basilica museum bookstore titled The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997). The book states that it is sponsored by the "Pontifical Administration, which has tutelage over the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter". The numbers, names, ST. designations, and dates of the early Roman leaders come from that source (but the links are not, they are articles about them), plus all the statements below are based upon Roman Catholic accepted writings, not some Protestant critic:

1. Peter... No dates were listed, but Roman Catholic scholars realize that Peter probably did not spend enough time to be "bishop of Rome".
2. Linus (67-76)...He is claimed to be the first to take up the inheritance from Peter, but he is omitted from Tertullian's list. There is a Linus mentioned in the Bible.
3. Cletus or Anacletus (76-88)...Various lists have him in a different order or as two different people, though there probably was just one.
4. Clement I (88-97)...He is claimed to have turned down the successor role from Peter, and is claimed to be the first Roman leader to abdicate. There was a Clement mentioned in the Bible.
5. Evaristus (97-105)...He, like his predecessors, was allegedly in charge while the Apostle John was still alive, but John makes no mention of him or his authority.
6. Alexander I (105-115)... Little is known about him, though it is falsely alleged that "He modified and enlarged the mass, instituted the use of holy water in sacred places and houses".
7. Sixtus 1 (115-125)...There is a claim, that he wrote two letters about the Godhead, but there is no actual evidence. He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover.
8. Telesphorus (125-136)...It is inaccurately claimed that he "established that on Christmas eve priests could say three masses and he introduced the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which he himself may have composed, at the beginning of the mass", yet Christmas was not observed in Rome until over 200 years after his death. He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover.
9. Hyginus (136-140)...He is claimed to have come up with the idea of "godparents". He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover. The heretic Valentinus appeared by his time.
10. Pius I (140-155) He was inspired by the ideas of the heretic Justin expressed in the "Dialogo con Trifone". He did observe a Sunday Passover. He was ineffective in stopping the heretic Valentinus.
11. Anicetus (155-166) Bishop Anicetus (perhaps the first clear "bishop of Rome") was a collaborator with the heretic Justin, and ineffective against the heretics Marcion and Valentinus. Another heresy, Montanism flourished at his time. He refused to change Passover back to Nisan 14--this was a clear difference between the Roman Church and the church in Asia Minor.
12. Soter (166-175) Bishop Soter is claimed to have called marriage a sacrament. He is supposedly the one to fix the Sunday date of Passover (though others have been cited for this as well).
13. Eleutherius (175-189) He allegedly dispensed with the obligations of Christians to follow several dietary laws of biblical origin. He went along with the Sunday date of Passover and decided against publicly opposing the Montanists.
14. Victor I(189-199) He was the first Roman bishop to attempt to act like a pope, but was somewhat unsuccessful. He attempted to force those in Asia Minor to accept Roman Passover Sunday tradition over the Bible and the teachings of the apostles. Polycrates, in response, told him "those greater than I have said 'We ought to obey God rather than man'".
15. Zephyrinus (199-217) He was the first bishop publicly accused of accepting bribes (and this was by one now recognized as a saint by Roman Catholics). He refused to condemn the Montanists and seemed to have had a confused view of the Godhead.
16. Callistus (217-222) He is the first bishop known to have been a criminal prior to his election. He was also accused of a variety of corrupt acts, including allowing indulgences and infanticide. He condemned the binitarian view. He only became a Catholic saint after he was later reconciled to that Church. He died 235 A.D. (almost all the others died on the last year listed past their name).

Source: Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, pp. 1-6.

It should be noted that many historians doubt the accuracy of the early portion of the above list (please see the article Apostolic Succession).

It needs to be pointed out that there are many variations in the timeframe of the "reigns" (a Roman Catholic term) of the early listed Roman leaders. Additional information on Rome and its claimed leaders can be found in the article What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?

Information on Catholic teachings and changes can be found in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?

List of Leaders in the Church in Asia Minor

The Church of God traces its history from Pentecost 31 A.D. (the year Jesus was crucified) through the Apostles and through those leaders that were faithful to the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints (Jude 3) as well as the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3. The dates listed are when the listed leaders died, not the entire time they were leaders (thus, this list in many ways differs from the Roman list).

Although we in the Churches of God do not view the following list the same way that those in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches view theirs (we believe that we are the spiritual descendants of the apostles and this is not dependent upon a bishop to bishop transfer, but a true holding of teachings in a little flock--Luke 12:32--that never completely died out), the following list (which mainly has dates based upon Roman Catholic accepted sources) gives a listing of apparently faithful leaders of the church from the first through third centuries.

Peter/Paul/James through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor and Jerusalem)
John through death circa 95-100 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Polycarp through death circa 155-156 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas through death circa 160 (oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris through death circa 166-167 (died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius through death circa 170 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor THIS DATE IS APPROXIMATE AND BASED ON THE LOGIC THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA USED FOR THRASEAS)
Melito through death circa 177-180 (oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Polycrates through death circa 200 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
*Apollonius of Ephesus through death circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor).
*Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).

* Note: History concerning Apollonius is not totally clear, but indications are that he was most likely in the true church (the 210 date came from The Catholic Encyclopedia). There is basically no information about Camerius of Smyrna, other than he is listed as bishop of Smyrna in sources like The Catholic Encyclopedia and the questionable book The Life of Polycarp. After Polycrates and Apollonius, the official history (with Eusebius the main writer) says almost nothing about the true church in Ephesus, though a compromised church from there develops importance in the fourth century. Around 250 Eudaemon of Smyrna apostasized under the persecution of Decius--around that time there was a major separation of those who professed Christ (Socrates Scholasticus. Church History, Book V, Chapter 19)--and this, combined with selective reporting of history (and the destruction of documents) is probably why we can no longer identify COG leaders by name after the first part of the third century.

It is my belief that this lack of coverage by Eusebius is intentional (The Catholic Encyclopedia indirectly confirms this when it stated, "We have no information concerning the further course of the matter under Victor I so far as it regards the bishops of Asia. All that is known is that in the course of the third century the Roman practice in the observance of Easter became gradually universal" and in another place "Of the lost works of Tertullian the most important was the defence of the Montanist manner of prophesying, "De ecstasi", in six books, with a seventh book against Apollonius"). I suspect that full coverage would have disclosed significant doctrinal differences from Rome that his emperor (Constantine), who liked Sunday, would not have found as legitimate.

None of the above leaders would accept traditions of men (such as Roman bishops) over the teachings of the Bible.

Some of the dates for the above list of leaders in Asia Minor come from the following chronology in The Catholic Encyclopedia (while others essentially can be found in other parts of The Catholic Encyclopedia):

...the martyr Thraseas, mentioned chronologically between Polycarp (155) and Sagaris (under Sergius Paulus, 166-7) in the letter of Polycrates to Pope Victor; the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160 (Chapman J. Montanists. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Furthermore, the above list (without Ignatius) is essentially later confirmed by the Catholic historian Eusebius, who quoted a letter from Polycrates--which made it clear that at that time, the church leaders of Asia Minor looked to Polycrates (and not Rome) to take the leadership. It is of interest to note that except for Polycrates, it appears that all the others listed above are also considered to have been both Quartodecimans and saints by the Roman Church even today (and through Melito, all, but possibly John, were considered to be martyrs).

There were also other Quartodeciman leaders in Asia Minor, that were not in Polycrates' list, such as Apollinaris and Papias, who were probably not considered as the overall leading church leader when they were alive.

Leaders of the Church in Jerusalem (mainly after John and Peter Left)

The following is from the English edition of the official web-site of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem "which was constructed and operates according to the decision of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Synod 16, 10-10-2006)" (http://www.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/en/patriarx_iero.htm viewed 02/05/10):

1. James the brother of God +62
2. Symeon +106-107
3. Justus 1st or Judas to 111
4. Zacheos 111-134
5. Tobias ""
6. Benjamin 1st ""
7. John 1st ""
8. Matthias 1st ""
9. Philip ""
10. Seneca ""
11. Justus 2nd ""
12. Levi ""
13. Ephraim ""
14. Joseph 1st ""
15. Judas ""

Obviously, there is a lack of clarity on the dates as the Orthodox report numbers 4-15 as sharing the same range of dates.

Marcus, a Latin, came to full power around 135 A.D. (the Orthodox website claims that this "Mark" reigned from 134-185) though Mark essentially pushed out those who had been faithful to the last Bishop of Jerusalem in 135 A.D. (see article titled The Ephesus Church Era).

The Catholic Encyclopedia has Judas "d. between 134-148" which suggests that it is possible that he actually lived (likely just outside of Jerusalem) for 10-14 years after Marcus took over for those that fell for his doctrinal compromises.

The following which is based upon Wikipedia (Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, viewed 02/05/10), and my own understanding has the following estimated dates:

1. James the brother of God +62
2. Simeon I +70-107
3. Justus 1st or Judas 107-113
4. Zacheos 113-?
5. Tobias ""
6. Benjamin 1st ?-117
7. John 1st 117-?
8. Matthias 1st ?-120
9. Philip 120-124
10. Seneca ""
11. Justus 2nd ""
12. Levi ""
13. Ephraim ""
14. Joseph 1st ""
15. Judas ?-135

The Apostle John was likely in Jerusalem until 67-70 A.D., when he moved to Asia Minor.

Early Heretics in/associated with Rome (excludes certain Roman "Bishops" who are included elsewhere)

Dates given are approximate and the listing does not mean that there was an actual clear succession of the heretics (many lived contemporaneously).

Simon Magus (through 100 A.D.) The first major heretic mentioned by name in the Bible. Considered to be "the father of heretics".
Meander - a former disciple of Simon Magus
Marcion (through 170 A.D.) - advocated lawlessness and doing away with the Sabbath. He may have been the first Protestant.
Montanus - advocated a trinitarian position.
Valentinus - first Christ-professing heretic to come up with the idea of three hypostases
Justin (through 160 A.D.) - one of the first heretics whose actual writings remain which demonstrate he was more of an apostate than a saint.
Marcus and the Marcosians: Developers of the Eucharist? Marcus was a second century heretic condemned for having a ceremony similar to one still practiced by many who profess Christ. Might he also be in the apostolic succession list of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria?
Irenaeus (through circa 199 A.D.) - he was possibly the most dangerous of the early heretics as he is almost never identified as a heretic.

With the exception of Justin and Irenaeus (who also should consider to be heretics), the other listed heretics are considered to have been heretics by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and those in the Church of God.

A Brief Timeline of the True Christian Church

Churches of Revelation 2 & 3: Approximate Timeline of Predominance

31 A.D.
135 450 1050 1600 1933 1986  to  present
Ephesus Smyrna Pergamos Thyatira Sardis Philadelphia Laodicea

The true church of God believes that its history was somewhat foretold in, and could be followed by, locating the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3. Another article of interest might be Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Rome, Ephesus, and Smyrna.

Other items of related interest may include:

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to 2014. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.

Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy?

Thiel B. Ph.D. Timelines of Early Church History. www.cogwriter.com/timeline.htm (c) 2006/2007/2010/2012/2015/2016/2017 0823

Back to home page