Articles » A Timeline of Church History

Tracing the birth and continuity of the Orthodox Church from Pentecost to the present.

A Word About Church History

Scholars estimate there are over 2,600 groups today who lay claim to being the Church, or at least the direct descendants of the Church described in the New Testament.  Repeat: 2,600!

But for the first thousand years of her history the Church was essentially one.  Five historic patriarchal centers – Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople – formed a cohesive whole and were in full communion with one another.  There were occasional heretical or schismatic groups going their own way, to be sure, but the Church was unified until the 11th century.  Then, in events culminating in A.D. 1054, the Roman Patriarch pulled away from the other four, pursuing his long-developing claim of universal headship of the Church.

Today, nearly a thousand years later, the other four Patriarchates remain intact, in full communion, maintaining that Orthodox Apostolic Faith of the inspired New Testament record.  The history of the Orthodox Church is described hereforth, from Pentecost to the present day.


Pentecost (A.D. 29 is thought to be more accurate).


Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) establishes precedent for addressing Church disputes in Council.  James presides as bishop.


Bishop Ignatius consecrated in Antioch in heart of New Testament era – St. Peter had been the first bishop there.  Other early bishops include James, Polycarp, and Clement.


Book of Revelation written, probably the last of the New Testament books.


St. Justin Martyr describes the liturgical worship of the Church, centered in the Eucharist.  Liturgical worship is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments.


The Edict of Milan marks an end to the period of Roman persecution of Christianity.


The Council of Nicea settles the major heretical challenge to the Christian Faith posed when the heretic Arius asserts Christ was created by the Father.  St. Athanasius defends the eternality of the Son of God.  Nicea is the first of Seven Ecumentical (Church-wide) Councils.


Council of Chalcedon affirms apostolic doctrine of two natures in Christ.


A synod in Toledo, Spain, adds the filioque to the Nicene Creed (asserting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the son). This error is later adopted by Rome.


The era of Ecumenical Councils ends at Nicea; the Seventh Council restores the centuries-old use of icons to the Church.


Conversion of Rus’ (Russia) begins.


The Great Schism occurs.  Two major issues include Rome’s claim to a universal papal supremacy and her addition of the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed.  The Photian Schism (880) further complicates the debate.


Norman conquest of Britain.  Orthodox hierarchs are replaced with those loyal to Rome.


The Crusdades begun by the Roman Church.  The Sack of Constantinople (1204) adds to the estrangement between East and West.


St. Gregory Palamas defends the Orthodox practice of hesychast spirituality [a mystical tradition of experiential prayer] and the use of the Jesus Prayer.


Turks overrun Constantinople; Byzantine Empire ends.


Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Roman Church in Wittenberg, starting the Protestant Reformation.


Church of England begins pulling away from Rome.


Missionaries arrive on Kodiak Island in Alaska; Orthodoxy introduced to North America


Papal Infallibility becomes Roman dogma


One thousand years of Orthodoxy in Russia, as Orthodox Church world-wide maintains fullness of the Apostolic Faith.

Copyright 1988 by Conciliar Press
Third edition printed in Canada, 1996

Conciliar Press
P.O. Box 748
Chesterton, IN 46304

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