Thoughts about faith


Timeline of Roman Catholic Doctrines in Church History

The Roman Catholic faith has been an evolution over many centuries. Catholics teach their faith was handed down from the Apostles and they only formally established these doctrines as the need arose yet a careful study of the writings of the church show that most of these doctrines were not held by the early church and were later additions. Events in red boldface are those pertaining to doctrine. The rest are historical events not directly related to RC doctrine.


250 BCOT canon is universally accepted
33-100 ADApostolic age
60 ADPaul returns to Rome
~68 ADPaul dies; Peter dies around the same time
95 ADClement of Rome mentions at least 8 NT books
100-325 ADAnte Nicene period (separation of Christianity from Judaism and growth)
108 ADPolycarp, acknowledged 15 books
115 ADIgnatius of Antioch acknowledges about seven NT books
170 ADMuratorian Canon[BV1]  includes all of the NT books except Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John
185 ADIrenaeus mentions 21 books
170-235 ADHippolytus recognizes 22 books
200 ADUnder Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, a basic version of Catholic structure was installed with Roman direction
300 AD Prayers for the dead began
313 ADEmperor Constantine legalizes Christianity and moves the Roman capital to Constantinople
325 ADThe First Council of Nicea, called by Constantine, attempted to structure church leadership around a model similar to that of the Roman system and formalized some key articles
363 ADCouncil of Laodicea states that only the OT books (along with one book of the Apocrypha[BV2] ) and 26 books of the NT (everything but Revelation) were canonical
375 ADVeneration of angels and dead saints, and the use of images
393 ADCouncil of Hippo affirmed 27 books
394 ADThe Mass as a daily celebration
397 ADCouncil of Carthage affirmed 27 books[BV3]
431 ADStart of the veneration of Mary and first use of the term “Mother of God” at the Council of Ephesus
500 ADPriests began to dress differently than layman
526 ADExtreme Unction
551 ADCouncil of Chalcedon declares the church in Constantinople to be the head of the eastern branch of the church and equal in authority to the Pope
590 ADPope Gregory I becomes Pope and the church enters into a period of enormous political and military power. Some call this the beginning of the Catholic Church as it is known today
593 ADThe doctrine of Purgatory established by Gregory I
600 ADThe Latin language imposed by Gregory I
607 ADTitle of pope, given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas
632 ADIslamic prophet Mohammad dies beginning a long conflict between Christianity and Islam
709 ADKissing of the pope’s foot began with pope Constantine
786 ADWorship of the cross, images, and relics authorized
850 ADHoly water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest
927 ADCollege of Cardinals established
995 ADCanonization of dead saints, first by John XV
998 ADAttendance at Mass made obligatory
1054 ADThe great East-West schism marks the formal separation of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of the Catholic Church
1079 AD Celibacy of the priesthood decreed by pope Gregory VII
1090 ADThe Rosary invented by Peter the Hermit
1184 ADThe Inquisition instituted by the Council of Verona
1190 ADThe sale of indulgences begun
1215 ADFourth Council of the Lateran – ratified the teaching of transubstantiation. Also the confession of sins to a priest
1439 ADPurgatory proclaimed as dogma by the Council of Florence
1517 ADLuther publishes the 95 Theses
1534 ADKing Henry VIII of England declares himself to be the supreme head of the Church of England, severing the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church
1545-1563 ADCatholic reformation begins
1545 ADTradition declared of equal authority by the Council of Trent
1546 ADCouncil of Trent official accepts 11 of the Apocryphal books as canonical[BV4]
1854 ADImmaculate Conception of Mary proclaimed by pope Pius IX
1870 ADThe First Vatican Council declares the policy of Papal infallibility
1950 ADAssumption of Mary (bodily ascension into heaven) proclaimed by pope Pius XII
1960s AD Second Vatican Council
1965 ADMary proclaimed Mother of the Church by pope Paul VI

 [BV1]The Muratorian Canon was discovered by Italian historian Ludovico Muratori in the Ambrosian Library in northern Italy in 1749. The copy his discovered was written in Latin and dates to the 7th or 8th century. Internal evidence suggests an original version around AD 180.

 [BV2]See What are the Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books? |

 [BV3]The Council of Carthage listed the 27 books of the NT as well as the 39 books of the OT but included a few Apocryphal books such as Maccabees and Esdras. Prior to and after this council, most Christian and Jewish scholars held the Apocrypha to be non-canonical. They are omitted from the works of Philo, Origen, Melito of Sardis, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, and Athanasius. They were also excluded at the Council of Laodicea held less than 40 years prior.

 [BV4]Trent declared both Scripture and tradition as authoritative. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone was rejected in favor of sacramental grace and righteousness based on an admixture of grace and works. The council also confirmed belief in transubstantiation. The council must be understood in its historical context. It has been called the anti-reformation council. Much of what it affirmed was in response to challenges coming from early Protestantism. The Apocryphal books contained support for doctrines such as prayers for the dead (purgatory) and indulgences.

How Old is Christianity?

One misunderstanding some people have about Christianity, Judaism, and the Bible is that they are not the oldest religions and others predate them. They will cite some eastern religions as being older. When it comes to ancient religions, we can date their origins by surviving records, secular references, or their own claims as to when they started.

The problem with ancient religions is that they are ancient. Thousands of years ago they did not have computers or even printing presses. They wrote on parchments and other materials that would not last forever. Some faded or fell apart. Some were lost in fires, or attacks. Some were buried over time. Only a fraction of what might have existed survived to our time. This makes precise dating all but impossible.

In the case of the Bible, its story begins with creation itself. Genesis tells us of the creation of the universe and of humanity. God walked in the Garden and talked with Adam and Eve. They were the first believers. God appeared to their children and grandchildren and so on. Eventually the nation of Israel was formed from this line of believers. Moses, wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, before the nation of Israel fully existed. He was given the history by divine inspiration. Since no history predates creation, and since the story of creation is the beginning of the Bible, the Bible and belief in the God of the Bible, predates all manmade religions. While we see Judaism and Christianity as separate religions, the New Testament teaches that Christianity is the completion of Judaism. Judaism was meant to lead to Christianity with the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah long-awaited by the Jews. Christian history begins with Genesis just as Judaism does. Based on that, I would date Christianity and Judaism as the oldest religions on earth.

When people claim these two religions borrowed stories from older religions (like the flood, resurrection, etc) they are not allowing for the possibility that Judaism and Christianity might be older and these other religions borrowed from them. Naturally, some people will debate this but I will never concede the point that any religion predates Judea-Christian history. Besides, being first does not necessarily make you right. When friends have tried to explain certain eastern traditions to me, and I have responded with Scripture, they often say “Well this stuff was around long before the Bible.” While it may have been written before the Bible, that does not mean it occurred before the Bible nor that it’s correct.

Secular scholars date Hinduism (or at least the root of it) as the oldest religion dating from 15 BC to 5 BC. They claim Judaism dates from 9 BC to 5 BC. Some claim Judaism is rooted in Atenism which is an old Egyptian monotheistic religion. The only similarity between Atenism and Judaism is that both were monotheistic. Atenism was based on the Sun god. That Judaism is monotheistic in no way proves it had any connection to Atenism. According to the Bible, belief in a single God goes back to Adam and Eve thousands of years before Atenism. Dating a religion upon the earliest writings or artifacts ignores the fact that so much of antiquity has been lost to the sands of time. Did Adam and Eve write anything down? Did Abraham? We don’t know but nothing has survived to us but that should not be surprising given the amount of time that has passed and the materials they used for writing. Note too that Moses was believed to live around 15 BC thus at the earliest suggested date for the start of Hinduism and Moses is far from the first person mentioned in the Bible.

Ultimately, this is an argument you won’t win as your friend may not accept your statements about the Bible being older. I would rather attempt to get them to admit that what we know is only known from surviving fragments or artifacts. It’s possible there were religions before Hinduism that simply did not survive. Secular science believes life began in Africa requiring many years before any descendants would have made it to the east. Who’s to say they did not have beliefs that predated Hinduism? Perhaps if they will admit we can’t be 100% certain then they will have to admit that you could be right about the Bible.