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Christianity / Church / Church History / Church History By Century

3rd Century

Updated Oct 06, 2023
3rd Century

This timeline highlights key events in 3rd-century Christian history, including growth, persecution, doctrinal controversies, and the development of Christian theology, literature, and art.

3rd Century Christian History

  1. c. 200-300 AD: Early Christian Growth

    • Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire.
    • Growth of catacomb communities for worship.
  2. 250-251 AD: Decian Persecution

    • Widespread persecution of Christians under Emperor Decius.
    • Many Christians were martyred for their faith.
  3. 257-260 AD: Valerian Persecution

    • Emperor Valerian escalates persecution against Christians.
    • Church leaders were targeted and arrested.
  4. c. 250-300 AD: Doctrinal Controversies

    • Theological debates on topics like Adoptionism and Sabellianism.
  5. 313 AD: Edict of Milan

    • Emperor Constantine and co-emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, granting religious tolerance to Christians.
  6. 325 AD: Council of Nicaea

    • An important ecumenical council convened to address Arianism.
    • The Nicene Creed was formulated to define Christian doctrine.
  7. c. 200-300 AD: Early Christian Literature

    • Notable patristic writings by figures like Tertullian and Origen.
  8. c. 200-300 AD: Formation of the New Testament

    • The process of canonization of the New Testament books begins.
  9. c. 200-300 AD: Christian Art and Symbols

    • Catacomb art with Christian iconography and symbols.
    • Influence on later Christian art and symbolism.

• At the beginning of the 3rd century, Edessa (Urfa in modern Turkey) became the first Christian state.

• Emperor Septimus Severus (202-211) persecutes and forbids conversion to Christianity. Then, a generation of peace for the church. The amazing growth and spread of faith continues, and church buildings begin to be built.

• North Africa is a key Christian center. Egypt alone had a million Christians by the end of the 3rd century. Carthage and Alexandria are leading centers of Christian theological development with such figures as Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria.

• AD 248 the 1,000th anniversary of Rome but all is not celebration as threats to the empire increase from neighboring populations on borders.

• The first empire-wide persecution instituted under Decius in AD 250. Everyone must offer pagan sacrifice and show certificate of proof.

• Church has to deal with the difficult problem of how to handle the "lapsed"--those who relented during the persecution and now want back into the church.

• Church problems not only political. Intellectual attacks must also be answered. Porphyry writes Against the Christians attacking apostles, church leaders, Gospels and Old Testament. Origen around 245 answers attack of Celsus written 70 years earlier and apparently still a threat to the church.

• The role of the bishop continues to grow in strength.

• Before 300 Anthony goes into desert as a hermit, an important early step in development of monasticism--which will be a kind of protest movement against worldly Christianity and an alternative approach to spiritual commitment.


About Church History By Century

Read about {3} Church History and know the important Christian events of that century.