A Timeline: The Hellenization of Christianity
by Joel Hemphill
1491 B.C. God speaks to Moses from the burning bush saying, “The Lord God...this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex. 3:15).
1451 B.C. Moses’ final address to Israel in which he says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4).
553 B.C. The prophet Daniel sees a vision of Greece as a violent “he goat” destroying with “fury” (Daniel 8:5-8, 21).
500 B.C. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus introduces the idea that the world is governed by a “firelike Logos,” a divine force similar to human reason, that produces the order and pattern in nature.
469 B.C. The Greek philosopher Socrates is born in Athens, Greece.
430 B.C. Socrates begins his diligent search for “logos” in human reason, with intense questioning known as the Socratic method.
424 B.C. The Greek philosopher Plato is born in Athens to aristocratic parents and becomes the most dedicated and famous pupil of Socrates.
399 B.C. Socrates is convicted of crimes, (including corrupting the youth of Athens) by a jury of 500 of his peers, and is executed in prison. Plato, embittered by this execution of his teacher, leaves Athens for travel in North Africa and Egypt.
395 B.C. Plato returns to Athens.
386 B.C. Plato founds a university in Athens called the “Academy,” dedicated to the “worship of spirits” where he begins to teach the doctrines of the logos and the triune God. (Historian Edward Gibbon; The Decline and Fall Of The Roman Empire; Vol. 2; p. 301).
300 B.C. Zeno founds the first Stoic school, at Athens. The Stoics believe in the Logos as the “divine reason” and all-pervading “breath of fire” as handed down to them by Heraclitus, Socrates and Plato. They strongly promote this idea for the next several centuries.
20 B.C. Philo Judaeus is born in Alexandria, Egypt. He was to become the most prolific writer of pre-Christian Judaism. A follower of Plato, he would promote his idea of the Logos (using the terms “logos” or “divine logos” some 1400 times in his writings) before Jesus began his ministry in Galilee.
4 B.C. Jesus is born in Bethlehem of the virgin Mary.
31 A.D. Spring - Jesus Christ is crucified outside the city of Jerusalem but was resurrected three days later, victorious over death, hell, and the grave, having “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
53 A.D. The apostle Paul preaches a sermon in Athens, on Mars hill, regarding “the unknown God” who will one day “judge the world in righteousness by that man [Jesus] whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31).
60 A.D. The apostle Paul warns the Christian elders of Ephesus, Greece that after his death “grievous wolves” will enter in and devastate the flock (Acts 20:29).
64 A.D. The apostle Paul writes a letter to the Christians at Colosse warning them to beware of (Greek) philosophy (Col. 2:8).
96 A.D. John, the last surviving Apostle dies, perhaps in Ephesus, Greece.
110 A.D. The “church father” Justin Martyr is born in Flavia Neapolis, Rome. He will come to teach that Jesus is “God,” although in “second place” to “the true God himself.” He will also teach that the Greeks Heraclitus and Socrates were “Christians, for Christ was and is the Logos who dwells in every man.”
150 A.D. The “church father” Clement of Alexandria is born in Athens. He will grow up to love Plato and Greek philosophy, whose doctrines he will mix with his chosen Christian religion. He will teach that Christ’s body had only an “apparent reality” and that Jesus “knew neither pain, nor sorrow, nor emotions.” He will speak of “the Trinity as reflected in Plato’s Timaeus.”
160 A.D. The “church father” Tertullian is born in Carthage and in adulthood will become a lawyer in Rome. He will coin over 900 new words including trinitas (Trinity) to explain his belief that God is one substantia (substance), manifested by three separate and distinct personae (persons). Using Greek sources, he will teach and promote such ideas as the “divine Logos” and the Trinity.
185 A.D. The “church father” Origen is born in Alexandria, Egypt. Through the influence of Greek philosophy and his own “speculations” regarding God and Christian doctrine, he will come to teach the pre-existence of all souls, the eventual return of all spirits (including the devil) to the Creator, the deification of men, and purgatory. But his doctrine that will be most devastating to the understanding of future Christians is, the “eternal generation” of the Son of God, Jesus.
312 A.D. General Constantine becomes emperor of the Roman empire. Claiming a conversion to Christianity in that year, he will nevertheless continue to preside at pagan functions, mint coins with pagan images, contribute to the construction of pagan temples and will not be baptized until on his deathbed in 335 A.D.
318 A.D. A controversy erupts in Alexandria, Egypt regarding the person of Jesus Christ, and his relationship to God the Father. This “Arian Controversy” between opposing Christian factions leads to violence in the streets.
325 A.D. The Arian Controversy threatening the peace of the Roman Empire itself, Emperor Constantine convenes a council of 300 bishops at his palace in Nicea (modern Turkey). This Nicean Council, under pressure from Constantine, will formulate a creed stating that Jesus Christ is “eternally begotten of the Father...God from God, Light from Light, Very God of Very God...of one substance with the Father.”
375 A.D. Three Christian Platonist theologians from the province of Cappadocia-Basil, Basil’s brother Gregory, and Gregory of Nazianzus-continuing “the speculative and Platonist tendencies of Clement and Origen” arrive at the idea that God exists as one substance, made up of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-which are co-equal and co-eternal: the Trinity