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Timeline of the Early Church

I thought it would be helpful to give some more historical context to the writings of the Church Fathers in relation to when the books of the New Testament were approximately written, in the order that they were written, plus any relevant major historical events that may have influenced certain texts. I'm using the earlier dating method of the New Testament books, but have included some later dates for those texts which are disputed more heavily. Having said that, all dates here are approximate and could vary by a few years either way. There has been (and still is) much debate and speculation as to exact dates of when the manuscripts were originally penned, as the dating of surviving papyrus and manuscript fragments are only from the second century onwards. For an interactive, online timeline I've created, see the Maps & Timelines page.

On the Early Church Texts side, I've included all of the texts from this book, plus a few other notable and important early texts which weren't included in this reading plan. As an additional point of interest, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Papias were all disciples or companions of the apostle John. Irenaeus later became a disciple of Polycarp, and around 67AD Ignatius became bishop of Antioch and was appointed to the position by the apostle Peter himself. Thus these few men preserved some of the earliest links back to the Apostolic Age and the things which were taught to those who personally knew Jesus. There is also an ancient tradition that Ignatius was the child that Jesus held when he blessed the children (cf. Matthew 18:1-4).

Date of New Testament Book

Significant Historical Events

Date of Early Church Texts

 

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Jesus Crucified - 30-33AD

 

 

Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - 33AD

 

 

Stephen stoned; first martyr – approx. 34AD (cf. Acts 7:54-8:2)

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Jesus converts Paul on the Damascus Road – approx. 34-36AD

 

 

Apostle James killed by Herod – approx. 42-44AD (cf. Acts 12:2)

 

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James (early date), 45-50 AD

 

 

Galatians, 47-57AD

 

Didache (early date) - 50AD

1 Thessalonians, 51-52AD

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2 Thessalonians, 51-52AD

 

 

 

Nero becomes emperor of Rome - 54AD

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Gospel of Mark, 50-60AD

 

 

Gospel of Matthew, 50-60AD

 

 

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1 Corinthians, 53-54AD

 

 

Romans, 55-57AD

 

 

2 Corinthians, 55-56AD

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James (late date), 60-63AD

 

 

Gospel of Luke, 60AD

 

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Acts of the Apostles, 61AD

 

 

Colossians, 61AD

 

 

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Ephesians, 61AD

 

 

 

James, brother of Jesus, martyred - 62AD

 

Philippians, 62-63AD

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Philemon, 63AD

 

 

1 Peter, 63-64AD

 

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1 Timothy, 63-66AD

 

 

Titus, 63-66AD

 

 

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Great Fire of Rome, Nero blames Christians - 64AD

 

 

Persecution by Nero begins - 64-68AD

 

 

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Apostle Peter martyred - 64-68AD

 

 

Apostle Paul martyred - 67-68AD

 

Hebrews, 64-68AD

 

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Revelation (early date), 64-68AD

 

 

2 Peter, 66AD

 

 

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The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome - 66-73AD

 

2 Timothy, 67AD

 

 

Jude, 68-80AD

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1 Clement, 69-95AD

 

 

Siege of Jerusalem - 70AD

 

Didache, 70-100AD

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Temple Destroyed - 70AD

 

 

Epistle of Barnabas, 70-79AD

Gospel of John, 85-90AD

 

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1, 2 & 3 John, 85-90AD

 

 

 

Persecution by Emperor Domitian - 89-96AD

 

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Revelation (late date), 95-96AD

 

Papias of Hierapolis, Expositions of the Lord, 95-120AD

 

Apostle John dies of old age – approx. 90-100AD

2 Clement, c.100AD

 

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Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, 107-108AD

 

Persecution by Emperor Trajan - 109-111AD

Polycarp: to the Philippians, 110-140AD

 

 

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Mathetes to Diognetus, 130-250AD

 

 

 

 

The Shepherd of Hermas, 140-154AD

 

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Justin Martyr, First Apology, c.156AD

 

 

Irenaeus, Against Heresies (I-V), 175-185AD

 

 

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Muratorian Canon, 180-200AD

 

Persecution by Emperor Decius - 250AD

Cyprian: On The Unity Of The Church, 249-251AD

 

Persecution by Emperor Valerian - 257AD

 

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Persecution by Emperor Diocletian - 303AD

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 300-313AD

(possibly earlier)

 

Christianity legalised under the Edict of Milan - 313AD

 

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Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures, 348-350AD

 

 

Athanasius: Life of Anthony, 356-362AD

 

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Ambrose of Milan: Concerning The Mysteries, c.387AD

 

 

Leo the Great's Tome, 449AD

 

 

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Leo the Great, Sermons, 440-461AD