Early Church & Process of Institutionalisation with Christianity Timeline

  1. Consider the way in which authority, maintenance and control of Christianity are exercised.

This essay will consider ways in which a number of key elements, namely authority, maintenance and control, resulting in stability and growth, were maintained within Christianity together with some of their positive and negative outcomes.

Following the death of Christianity’s original founder, Jesus of Nazareth, the “process of institutionalization” began with the “most critical test of survival” the transference of authority and the establishment of it as transcendent. Eventually for the maintenance and control of the group’s growth, this authority was invested in the church, per se,as the “only channel by which God communicates grace and salvation to men” (sic) (T. Patrick Burke, p 301, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts).

By this process “strong governance“, one of the key elements in survival was instituted (p 75, UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes).  This “routinization of charisma” (Roberts p 75) takes place when those designated begin to maintain and control the group.  These leaders are identified as “religious professionals; those members of the group form the core sub group that concerns itself with matters of policy, as well as the behavior and ritual life of the group” (p 75).

Werner Stark characterises the “priest or professional as someone with a conservative or conserving function” (p 75 in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes), and, as “something learned with the aid of routine teaching methods, where a person is set aside for the job by the group”.  Stark further maintains that without the development of the priests or professionals the group would not be able to retain “cultural continuity”, “effective mobilization”, or “dense internal network relations” (p 75).  Such leaders add stability and permanence to the group by supporting it to move towards having a clear identity, greater cohesion and survival.

The professional and priest are also important to the maintenance of such things as the purity, interpretation, and teaching of the sacred text, as well as pastoral and social care of the group.  However, both Roberts and Stark agree that another key element is the members themselves “needing to commit to the organization” so that, amongst other things, a “stable economic base” can be established (p 75).

However, there are negative aspects to this authoritative hierarchical organization and control invested in the priests and the professional, particularly where it grows beyond its local boundaries.  There “armchair speculative philosophers” emerge, (Douglas Pratt, p 65, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes) on an international scale of formalized and greater integrated networking of the highest-ranking religious professionals for the group.  The outcome of this can mean the local group becomes invisible and dehumanised.

An example of this might be seen today in the central bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic division of Christianity in the Vatican.  Where professionals control policy and practice may yield a very limited view of localized membership, and in particular the marginalization of different groups of people such as women, homosexuals, people of lower income and different color to the dominant group, resulting in their discrimination and isolation.

In sum, the professional and priest, as members of the local community, add stability and cohesiveness to the group.  However, when these functions extend beyond the local group the greater the loss of identity for the group.


Burke, T. Patrick, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts, 1996, Blackwell Publishers, Massachusetts.

UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes, 2002, The University of New England, Armidale, NSW.


Judaism / Emergence of Christianity Timeline

539 Temple and priesthood sacrifices

538 Fall of Jerusalem, temple sacked. Jews went into exile. No temple, priesthood, or sacrifice.

Babylon conquered by Persia Cyrus sent Jews back to rebuild temple. Sacrifices and priesthood restored.

Palestine some Jews returned. Jewish Synagogue and Rabbi’s set up to accommodate Persian Jews.

400 BCE Resurgence of Judaism Prophets recalling people to Torah “Way” lifestyle.  Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism

The Great Shift.  Jews of Judaism  /. Jews of Exile and Dispersion.


333 BCE. Alexander the Great Conquest of Ancient Near East opens up Greek Hellenising Empire.  Spread of Hellenism Language, Culture and Arts.

Diaspora Jews: synagogues and scribes  Torah “Way” changes to Torah “Teaching”, discussion, and debate.

63 BCE Roman Conquest 250 yrs Roman Empire Messianic Hope Revived Revolts amongst Jews from Roman Rule.

New religion: Christianity. Founder- Jesus of Nazareth put to death.

70 CE Temple sacked again.  Messianic Revival

First Christian Community. Leaders emerge Community=Hebraist / Hellenistic (The “Gentile Problem”)

Diaspora: Roman Persecution. Members of new Community flee

Saul of Tarsus strict Pharisee converted to Christianity’s “The Way

Roman Empire Leadership of Caesar.

100 CE Christianity’s Radical Break with Judaism

The Apologists “Messiah had come”, was “Son of God” & “Savior of the World.

The Great Creeds: Right Belief / Right practice.

Breakaway Group: Gnosticism Marcion formulated doctrine.

250 CE Emperor Nero – Persecution Christianity outlawed in Rome

300 Institutional structure and expression- Leadership entirely male.

303 CE Emperor Diocletian Christianity has patronage

323 Emperor Constantine

325 Two Great Councils Nicene Creed

395 St Augustine Bishop of Hippo

381 Constantinople (Istanbul)

Middle Ages & The Golden Age

1600 – 1800 New Movement Protestant Reformation

1900 English Missionary Movements & Colonialism

New movement Neo Pentecostalism Stream Religious Exclusivism Conservative Fundamentalism

2000 Unity & Diversity Movement fragmented Ecumenical Movement World Council of Churches