Political Milestones: 100AD to 200AD
We now estimate the world’s population going into the second century to be around 180 million. Over one million of them lived in a single city, Rome. In so many ways Rome was the first modern city. Its engineers had solved the age old problems of transport, food, water and sewage. Rome was a magnet for wealth, power, influence and fame. However it was built on the principle of financially looting the provinces, just as every empire coming after them would do until the industrial revolution changed everything. Within two decades the empire would reach its greatest geographical extent and begin to contract, plagued by terrible leadership and envious neighbours.
Across in China a major breakthrough occurred in 105AD with the invention of paper. This allowed widespread education to take off, cementing China’s role as a superpower for centuries to 1500 years. It is only now regaining its deserved status after several centuries of European subjugation. Buddhism continued its advance across Asia with its very modern message that suffering is not the fate of the gods, but of fellow men.
In 132AD Bar Kockbar led the third and final Jewish rebellion against Rome. This disaster resulted in the final and total dispersal of the Jews from Israel. For the next 1,800 years they would wander Europe and the Middle East, hated by both Christians and Muslims, waiting for their homeland to be returned, which it was in 1948.
In 152AD the Huns were pushed out of Mongolia by the Mongols. They drifted west for the next two centuries, wrecking every culture they came in contact with. By 410AD they would conquer Eastern Europe.
Sometime during this century, but definitely by 166AD, the Romans and the Chinese made formal contact and began to trade. This was the opening up of the fabled “Silk Road” across Euro-Asia. China valued Roman glassware, engineering and administration while Rome valued silk and the many Chinese inventions missing in Europe. Each empire was fascinated with the other. This meeting of superpowers laid the groundwork for the spread of the Gospel to China via Central Asia by 700AD.
A few years later, in 186AD, disaster struck the entire planet. Mt Taupo in New Zealand blew up, spewing over 130 cubic kilometres of ash and rock into the earth’s atmosphere. The resultant global cooling caused around a decade of drought, famine, starvation, civil unrest and migration worldwide. The Han Chinese dynasty collapsed in China, while Rome, Persia and India were all invaded by desperate people groups. Millions died.
Spiritual Milestones: 100AD to 200AD
This is the century when persecution of Christians stepped up a notch, with about 1% of believers dying violently because of their beliefs over the course of the century. It began in n 110AD when the third imperial persecution broke out in Rome under Trajan. Persecution would eventually break out in North Africa, Turkey, Georgia, Greece and France. The great haters of the Christian faith in this century were the Romans, followed by the Persians and Jews. Over half of all deaths occurred in Greece.
In 150AD the first Bible is translated in Latin, thus beginning a tradition that continues to this day globally. By 170AD the scriptures had also been translated into the Coptic language of Egypt. By 180AD Ireneus, bishop of Lyons and the first great theologian of the Christian faith, had laid the groundwork for the acceptance of the current books of the New Testament, though this task would not be complete until 393AD. He also spoke out strongly against the creeping heresy of Gnosticism that was infiltrating many churches.
By the end of the century the message of Jesus had reached North Africa, deep into the Nile valley, Spain and France in a big way. Tens of thousands gave their lives to Christ. Nearly every Roman province had some Christian witness by 200AD and there was a Christian presence in the lands that border Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. By the end of the century some 4 million people out of just fewer than 200 million would claim to be Christian.
It was during this century that the church sadly lost its apostolic, servant leadership style. By the middle of the century the mention of the term apostle, prophet and evangelist began to disappear from church literature. Church hierarchies were emerging with bishops and popes. The Roman administrational pyramid was infiltrating the church. House churches began to give way to established buildings (circa 150AD) and lay leadership was being replaced with professional clergy. The concepts of the priesthood of all believers, the believer being the temple of God, and the living sacrifice of our souls as an offering to God were slowly being crowded out by pagan Greek and Roman worship practices. What began as a faith with no sacred places, sacred persons and sacred objects began to be subverted from within and without.
In the midst of this institutionalising of what was meant to be a simple relationship with our creator, there appeared a reform movement in the middle of the century. Montanism was very similar to modern day Charismatic movement. It sought to restore the spiritual gifts and holiness. As it was a threat to the emerging institutional church it was vigorously opposed and condemned. By 200AD the die had been cast.