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HISTORY OF THE CHURCH. 1- THE APOLOGISTS. Different ways to study History. 1-Sequential method. Where you study the events and their implications from the beginning of the time period of the study to its end, e.g. century by century or generation by generation.

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history of the church



different ways to study history
Different ways to study History

1-Sequential method. Where you study the events and their implications from the beginning of the time period of the study to its end, e.g. century by century or generation by generation.

2-Topical method. As you pick a certain topic and study its origins and follow its historical development. E.g. Monasticism or the Liturgy…etc.


3-Biographical method. In this way you select the particular characters you find most influential in the area of history you are interested in, and study their lives, their writings and their influence.

  • 4-Spot method. Where you are going to choose a certain point in history, e.g. the Arab invasion of Egypt, and study all the various ways, it had influenced the course of history.

It is important to note here that whatever approach you choose, you need always to follow certain guidelines in your study in order to reach the most plausible conclusion which is most likely to reflect the true events of history.These guidelines are simple.1-You have to cross reference you data from multiple sources.2- You have to use reliable, honest and established sources.The established sources available to us relative to Christian History are


1-The Holy Bible.

  • 2-Tradition, whether Oral or written, from different churches of the World. That includes the Christian and Non Christian biographies of the Fathers of the Church and their writings and the historical events surrounding their lives.

3-Scientific sources. Here, we must be both very cautious and open minded at the same time. As some of these sources are biased towards the sources of their funding or their personal or political affiliations. While at the same time, these sources have a vast array of tools to dig for the truth through many scientific disciplines, e.g. Archeology, Anthropology and many other fields of science. Sorting through this data is not a task for the faint hearted. As some of it is really difficult to understand for the common person.


The development of the Christian denominations in a glance

The one apostolic universal (Catholic) Orthodox church 33-325 AD

The ecumenical council at Nicaea 325

The ecumenical council at Constantinople 381

The ecumenical council at Ephesus 431

The council of Chalcedon 451 [the Schism]


non Chalcedonian Orthodox churches Chalcedonian churches

The Coptic church included here

The schism of 1054

Catholic (Latin) E. Orthodox (Byzantine)

Anglican Church (1538) Protestant (1521)


This study will propose that we approach History through the most influential groups of people who helped shape it into what we have today, since we do not have the luxury of a long and detailed examination of all the stages the church went through since her birth at the day of Pentecost.

Without a doubt our fathers the apostles are at the top of this list, however, since the apostolic Era is the most widely studied part of Church history and most people are at least familiar with some, if not most of its events, we are going to move directly to the next group of people we need to approach…


1-The Apologists.

2-The heretics.



5-The ecumenical councils.


But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear(1 Peter 3:15)

I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:(Acts 26:2)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8)


St. Irenaeus Bishop of Lyon (2-3 Century)

"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected.  But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself." --Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.2.


Apologists are simply the defenders of the Faith.

The term Apology is derived from the original Greek “apologia” which means “a speech in the defense of the Faith” it is not used here in the contemporary sense of acknowledging an error or mistake. There are numerous examples of true apologetic writings, in Christian and non Christian literature as well.


Apologetics have become a science taught in Theological schools. It has become what is now called Fundamental Theology, to distinguish it from Dogmatic Theology which is the other branch of Dogmatic science. Apologetics is intended for the unbelievers, skeptics and attackers of the Christian Faith as an effort to lead them to believe in Christ. Whereas Dogmatic Theology is geared to the faithful, helping them understand the tenets of the faith they already accepted.


Apologists are indeed some of the most important group of people the Church gave birth to. It was evident from the beginning that the budding small Christian community was constantly under attack from all sides. Educated and uneducated, monotheists, polytheists and even atheists, all took aim at the struggling church of the first Century. Their attacks had never let down or abated to this day. In every generation , the Lord provided the Church with members who passionately defended the Faith and laid the foundation for the following generations to build on their efforts. In the early stages of history, the arguments were generally intellectual, logical and philosophical in the most part. In today’s environment, we have to add to this the scientific angle, as this is now being widely used even at the official schools as a means to undermine the faith of the new generations e.g. in the Darwinist Theory of evolution.


Apologists had to do their defense therefore, in several fronts

1-Early on against the attacks of pagans in order to prove the case for God’s existence and power and the fact that He is the only God and creator of the entire universe. At this stage they had to also, provide evidence to the Jewish people who did not believe in Christ, that He was the long awaited Messiah of the Old Testament. Obviously these are totally different directions which had to be addressed in a manner and language suitable for each group.

2-Later on as the Menace of Islam started to appear in the sixth century, Apologists had to address the claims of the new religion.

3- We have to remember the dangerous emergence of Heretics in every stage of Church History, which required the vigilance of Orthodox apologists who refuted the claims of heretics and produced evidence of the true Orthodox Faith.


4-In the sixteenth century, the Reformation movement of Protestantism seemed to undermine many of the established apostolic doctrines, e.g. the Eucharist, therefore a new class of apologists on each side of the arguments appeared in order to defend their stance.

5-In modern times, more than any time before, the need for apologists is so urgent and imperative in order to refute the claims of modernist, existentialists, evolutionists and the many new age philosophies which are building on all previous attacks, and expanding their war against the very basics of the Christian Faith.


Examples of great Apologists and their works,

1-The Apostle Paul in his defense before Festus and Agrippa.

2-In the second Century appeared Aristides, Quadratus, Athenagoras, Tatian and others but most of all Justin Martyr

who wrote two apologies, which were very influential in later development of the church doctrines. He defended the Christian faith in the face of Jewish criticisms, and defended the Christians as honest law abiding citizens who should not be tortured and persecuted for their faith by the state. Most importantly, He provided his defense in a philosophical and logical as well as scriptural systematic manner which was compelling, and later on stirred the pagan philosopher Celsus to write what he called “the true word” to attack the faith of Christians explained by Justin Martyr. This is turn resulted in yet much greater response from the great Christian Scholar Oregin, who then wrote his great apology “against Celsus”


Justin Martyr

100 – 165 AD


3-Many of the great fathers of the church wrote treatises defending the faith at one stage or the other, like Athansius, Augustine and many others. Whether against pagans, heretics or the unfair persecution of the church …their writings enriched the church with material for the following generations to use against similar attacks, and to build on for yet the generations to come.

4-A remarkable apology was written by Theodore Abu Qurra in the ninth century. As a bishop of Harran, he composed “On God and the true Religion” to represent the Christian faith under Islamic rule at his time.


The Christian Church is the most attacked institution in the history of the world. Our Bible is the most critiqued and attacked book ever. Nevertheless, the Holy Bible still holds its majestic place as the most influential book ever written as it is truly the revelation of God’s Word to humanity. The church is still the divine established authority outside which no man can be saved. In the words of our Lord, “the gates of hell will never prevail against her”

However, we must heed the words of the Lord in the first chapter of Acts, as He said, “you shall be my witnesses”. If we fail in our mission and cower away as the steward who buried his talents, there will be a price to pay. In the mean time God will always find for himself true believers who will fear no sword or fire to defend the Orthodox faith and preserve it for the generations to follow.


But in order to be able to do our

apologetic service we need to,


1-Delve deeper in our faith, because

we cannot convince anybody of

something we do not clearly

understand and strongly believe



2-Stick to the scriptures and the

lessons of our early fathers, the

apologists who came before us and

learn from their experiences.


3-Never try to dilute or water down

our convictions in order to satisfy a

ruler, a friend, or a foe.


4-Do not be intimidated by the

expected attacks. you should be

prepared for them. If there is a

question you cannot answer, simply

admit that you shall investigate it and

get the answer.


5-Learn how to speak the language of our opponents, meaning if they are using philosophy, we should be able to match their language as we have by far the greater side of the truth. If they be scientific, we have to be able to answer them in the language they understand and find the ways to refute their claims with data and true science which definitely will be in side of the creator who made all the laws of nature.



1-Alkalema. A magazine published by the youth bishopric for the servants of youth.

2-Encyclopedia Britannica.

3-Catholic Encyclopedia.

4-Handbook of apologetics (Peter kreeft)

Recommended readings

all available in the library and the Church web site

Heresy of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Pope Shenouda)

Comparative Theology (Pope Shenouda)

The nature of Christ (Pope Shenouda)

Is there Devine Justice? (Fr. Tadros Malaty)

Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church (Fr. Tadros Malaty)

Tradition and Orthodoxy (Fr. Tadros Malaty)

Handbook of Apologetics (peter Kreeft)

The Case for Christ

The Case for Christianity.

The case for Faith.

The case for God.

God Is. (Alan Hayward)