The Council of Jerusalem and the Catholicity of the Early Church

In the first reading at Today’s Mass we have recounted for us the Council of Jerusalem which scholars generally date to around the Year 50 AD. It was a pivotal moment in the history of the Church since it would set forth an identity for the Church that was independent from the culture of Judaism per se, and it would open wide the door of inculturation to the Gentiles. This surely had significant impact upon evangelization in the early Church.

Catholic Ecclesiology is Evident here: in that we have reflected here a very Catholic model of the Church in terms of how a matter of significant pastoral practice and doctrine is properly dealt with. In effect what we see here is the same model the Catholic Church has continued to use right to our own time. What is evident here, and in all subsequent Ecumenical Councils, is a gathering of the Bishops presided over by the Pope which considers a matter and may even debate it. If necessary, the Pope resolves debates where consensus cannot be reached. Once a decision is reached, a letter is issued to whole Church and the decision is considered binding.

All these elements are seen here, though somewhat in seminal form. Let’s consider this First Council of the Church in Jerusalem of 50 AD, beginning first with the remote preparation:

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Q: What Was the Historical Development of Christianity?

Q: What Was the Historical Development of Christianity?

A: Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church in about 34 AD.

The apostles soon established the Church throughout Asia Minor.

St. Peter established the Church at Rome in about 40 AD.

The Christians successfully withstood several hundred years of persecution at the hands of the Romans.

In the 4th century, the Church converted Constantine, the Roman emperor.

Constantine ended the persecutions and made Christianity legal.

In the 5th century, after much of the Roman empire had already converted to Christ, the old Roman empire fell.

That left the Catholic Church in place as the only effective world government, where it ruled and reigned for the next thousand years, converting most of the known world for Christ.

Corruption in the Church, primarily by the clergy and the aristocracy, and the rise of alternative philosophies, resulted in the 15th century advent of Protestantism.

It’s been pretty much of a descending “graveyard” spiral, since then.