Christian History Institute

Sharing our story of faith across the ages

items tagged with early church

In Context

  1. In Hoc Signo Vinces [In this sign conquer]
    Constantine (ca. 280–337). Quoted in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius.
  2. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.
    Cyprian of Carthage (died 258), from On the Unity of the Church.
  3. The prison was made a palace for me.
    Vibia Perpetua (ca. 180–ca. 202), in Acts of the Martyrs.
  4. What the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.
    Unknown author (second century)in the Letter to Diognetus.

Study Modules

Productions

Pocket Classics

  • Justin Martyr's First Apology

    1994

    Justin Martyr was a philosopher turned Christian in the second century AD. Read his famous defense of the faith. (Call 1-800-468-0458 to order)

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  • Clement's First Letter to Corinth

    1994

    Clement was a Roman bishop in the first century AD, who wrote to counsel the Christians at Corinth. His letter was sometimes considered scripture by the early church. Read it for yourself in this handy pocket format.

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Books

  • From Christ to Constantine (Out of Print)

    1991

    by A Kenneth Curtis and Carsten Thiede. An image-packed look at the trials and testimony of the early church. (Out of print.)

DVDs

  • The Trial and Testimony of the Early Church

    1990

    From Christ to Constantine; Trial and Testimony of the Early Church. The first three centuries were decisive for Christianity. The existence of the church was threatened by powerful opponents. These programs bring you close to the early believers.

    AWARDS

    • Chris Award from Columbus International Film & Video Festival
    • Gold Award from Houston International Film & Video Festival
    • Silver Angel from Angel Awards
    • Golden Eagle Award from CINE
    • Best Series from Christian Visual Media International

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  • Perpetua: Early Church Martyr

    2011

    Perpetua: Early Church Martyr documents the life and martyrdom of Perpetua in Carthage around AD 202. This young mother dared to claim Jesus as her Lord in the face of Roman opposition, giving up wealth, freedom, and eventually life itself, rather than renounce her faith.

    AWARDS

    • Winner 2011 WorldFest Houston Silver Remi.

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Magazine Issues

Articles

15 May 2012

What sorts of music did worshipers use?

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Resource Guide

THE EARLY CHRISTIANS faced a musical dilemma. They were surrounded by pagan spectacles featuring lavish choral singing, instrumental music, and dancing, and these were often associated with lust-provoking drama (performed in the nude) and the notorious roman blood combat. For obvious reasons, the north african teacher Tertullian (c. 160–c. 220) argued that Christian converts should shun the “shows” that had once given them such pleasure. and besides, all such entertainments were dedicated to pagan gods—or as Tertullian put it in typically...

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15 May 2012

History of Worship: Recommended resources

by The editors | Resource Guide

I. Overview histories and reference books

Oxford History of Christian Worship , ed. Geoffrey Wainwright and Karen Westerfield Tucker. Excellent one-volume scholarly overview of Christian worship across the centuries and around the globe. Articles written by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox authors focus on theological, historical, and geographical topics.

The Complete Library of Christian Worship , ed. Robert Weber. Probably best described as an encyclopedia, these seven volumes feature discussions of worship from scriptural,...

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15 May 2014

Early Christian Texts

by Edwin Woodruff Tait | Resource Guide

THE DIDACHE , or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” is an anonymous text dating from the late first or early second century, making it one of the earliest non-canonical Christian texts. A central theme of the text is moral instruction, organized around the “two ways”: the “way of life” and the “way of death.” Each “way” consists of a list of actions that characterize those who follow it.

The same theme is found in the Epistle of Barnabas , another early non-canonical text. These early Christian writings affirm a close link between moral...

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30 Dec 2011

Who you gonna call?

by The Editors | Issue 101

THE ROMAN WORLD in the early Christian era was frequently troubled by plagues; the most famous and destructive of these broke out in 250 and lasted 15 years. Epidemics of plague are reported in a number of cities in the second through fourth centuries. In at least some cases, they were diseases brought back by Roman troops returning from far-flung campaigns. Some may have been versions of smallpox or measles.

Frequently, shrines and oracles of the Roman gods were consulted in efforts to learn what would stop the plagues. Some shrines, like...

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15 Nov 2003

The First Bible Teachers: Did You Know?

by the Editors | Issue 80

Great grandfather of medieval culture?

Clement of Alexandria (ca. 160–215) began the monumental project that would culminate in the Middle Ages—to place all of Western culture on a biblical foundation. Robert Wilken calculates there are between seven and eight biblical citations on every page of Clement’s writings, which contain, in all, some 1,500 references to the Old Testament and 3,000 to the New Testament. His writings are “suffused with [the Bible’s] language, its forms of expressions, its images and metaphors, its stories. Its heroes...

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15 Nov 2003

Scripture Saturation

by Patrick Henry Reardon | Issue 80

A LITTLE-KNOWN MONK living in the Egyptian desert at the end of the fourth century provided one of the most durable interpretive keys in the history of Bible study. The monk, named Nesteros, proposed that all of Holy Scripture is to be understood in four ways or “senses.”

He explained this paradigm by examining the various meanings of “Jerusalem” in the Bible.

Jerusalem in its literal and historical sense, said Nesteros, is simply a city in the Holy Land. That is the Bible’s first sense, its literal and historical meaning.

Besides this,...

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15 Nov 2003

Opponents of Allegory

by Steven Gertz | Issue 80

THERE ARE PEOPLE who take great pains to twist the sense of the divine scriptures,” wrote the fourth-century biblical scholar, Theodore of Mopsuestia, a prominent voice of the exegetical school centered at Antioch, “and make everything written therein serve their own ends. They dream up silly fables in their own heads and give their folly the name of allegory. They misuse the apostle’s term as a blank authorization to abolish all meanings of divine scripture.”

At the beginning of the third century, Origen of Alexandria introduced to the...

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15 Nov 2003

Too Racy for Bible Study

by Warren Smith | Issue 80

LET HIM KISS ME with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine, your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is perfume poured out. . . . How beautiful are you, my love, how very beautiful. . . . Your hair is like a flock of goats moving down the slopes of Gilead . . . your lips are like a crimson thread and your mouth is lovely. . . . Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.”

The words are not from a cheesy romance novel but from the Old Testament, specifically Song of Songs (1:1–2; 4:1, 3, 5). If these words...

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15 Nov 2003

Why the Reformers Read the Fathers

by the Editors | Issue 80

The Reformers taught “Sola Scriptura,” which meant every person became their own Bible interpreter, right?

Wrong. We asked noted Reformation scholar David Steinmetz of Duke Divinity School about this. In this excerpt from our interview, he reminds us that the reformers strove to ensure their own interpretations of Scripture matched those of the fathers.

"T he Reformation is an argument not just about the Bible but about the early Christian fathers, whom the Protestants wanted to claim. This is one of those things that is so obvious nobody...

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15 Nov 2003

The Habits of Highly Effective Bible Readers

by Christopher A. Hall | Issue 80

I n recent years, more and more evangelical Protestants have been looking at the early church fathers—that group of Christian teachers stretching from just after the apostles through approximately the first five centuries of the church—to see how they read their Bibles and did their theology.

"Exhibit A” in this resurgence is the  Ancient Christian Commentary series edited by Thomas C. Oden and published by InterVarsity Press—a 28—volume set that places side by side with the text of each Bible book the key exegetical writings of the early...

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15 Nov 2003

Origen: Friend or Foe?

by John R. Franke | Issue 80

FEW FIGURES in church history have stimulated the level of debate and controversy that surrounds Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185 – ca. 254). To some, he was a brilliant intellectual as well as a passionately committed disciple of Christ, the most influential and seminal thinker in the early church. Others regard him as a dangerous heretic whose interest in philosophical speculation unleashed a string of teachings that stand in stark opposition to orthodox Christian faith (p. 2). Still others affirm the truth of both positions.

As a Christian,...

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25 May 2013

Recommended resources

by the Editors | Issue 105

Books and essays

• Timothy Barnes, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study. Introduces Tertullian’s life and thought.

• Gerald Bray, Holiness and the Will of God: Perspectives on the Theology of Tertullian .

• Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo. Classic biography of Augustine.

• Massimo Capuani, Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments through Two Millennia.

Classics of Western Spirituality series published by Paulist Press. Includes volumes containing writings of Augustine, John Cassian, Origen, and Jewish North African philosopher...

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25 May 2013

Telling the African story

by Thomas Oden and the Editors | Issue 105

CH: How did your initial desire to make the biblical wisdom of the church fathers available in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) evolve into the mission of promoting early African Christianity?

TO: Through 20 years of working on the ACCS, our editorial team saw how so much important Christian exegesis came out of Africa. In textbooks, the earliest Christian writers in Africa are viewed as either Romans or Greeks—ideas moving down into Africa. But ideas were actually moving from Africa to the north. Why were the African...

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25 May 2013

And some others you should know . . .

by Michael Glerup | Issue 105

Mark, apostle in africa

According to the New Testament, Mark was a cousin of Barnabas and accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. He was also a companion of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). By the second century Christian writers identified this Mark as the author of the Gospel that bears his name and as a faithful interpreter of Peter, his apostolic source.

Some Christian historians from the fourth century onward provide an extensive, though unverified, account of Mark’s activities in North Africa as the founder of the church...

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25 May 2013

Breaking bread for the church

by Ed Smither | Issue 105

WHEN AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354–386) is studied in universities and seminaries, it is most often as Augustine the philosopher or Augustine the theologian. But what about Augustine the pastor? Without a doubt, the African church leader was one of the greatest thinkers in Christian history. However, his “day job” for nearly 40 years was serving first as priest and then bishop in the church at Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria ) in North Africa. 

when the bishop calls

In 391 Augustine traveled from his hometown of Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras,...

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25 May 2013

See how these Christians love one another

by J. Warren Smith | Issue 105

IN ANTIQUITY “North Africa” was a province of the Roman Empire where today we find Tunisia . Its capital was Carthage . We may think of Rome as the center of the Roman Empire. But while many roads of culture and society met in Rome, many also ran through Carthage as a major center of imperial trade. Destroyed but then rebuilt by the Romans, Carthage was called “the granary of the empire.” Carthaginians made beautiful pottery and traded figs, grapes, olive oil, and beans with the interior of the African continent and much of the rest of the...

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25 May 2013

The Bible’s story is our story

by Joseph Trigg | Issue 105

IT WAS THE YEAR 240. At the church in Jerusalem, the reader stood up to read the Sunday lesson from the Septuagint, the early church’s Greek translation of the Old Testament. Starting where he had stopped the week before, he read through four episodes from the story of Saul and David (our 1 Samuel 25–28, though they had neither chapter nor verse numbers). The story ended with Saul’s visit to a necromancer—a woman inspired by a demon.  

how can this be explained?

The ending of the reading puzzled the congregation. Did a necromancer actually...

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25 May 2013

From Abba Salama to King Lalibela

by Tekletsadik Belachew | Issue 105

WHEN WESTERNERS ENTER a worship service among the Ethiopian Orthodox—as one Westerner has said—they enter an experience of “delighted disorientation . . . the opulent vestments, the sumptuous processional ‘parasols,’ the grand elaborate liturgies, the ornate gold crosses, the vivid icons, the drums and sistrums and ritual dance and mesmerizing pentatonic [five-note] chant.” This spellbinding worship experience expresses a very ancient faith, practiced today as it has been for centuries in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. (The word...

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25 May 2013

Saved from the compost heap

by Niall Finneran | Issue 105

NAG HAMMADI was a fairly unknown city in Upper Egypt until one day in 1945. Egyptian farmers knew that ancient papyrus would enrich their fields, and a farmer out digging for compost discovered 12 codices ( bound books) in a sealed jar. No one immediately recognized the importance of the books. In fact, some were used as kindling for fires. One found its way to a Belgian antiquities dealer, from whom the Carl Gustav Jung Institute
in Zurich purchased it in 1951.
 

hidden knowledge

Scholars eventually analyzed over 50 different works from the...

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25 May 2013

The hunger games and the love feast

by Edwin Woodruff Tait | Issue 105

ON MARCH 7, 203, the Roman colony of Carthage celebrated the birthday of Geta Caesar, 14-year-old son of Emperor Septimius Severus. Severus was an African—an ambitious provincial from the lesser aristocracy who had fought his way to power in a civil war 10 years earlier. Just the previous year, he had waged a successful campaign in Africa. Roman power had been vindicated, the barbarians had been driven back, and peace had been confirmed.  

RULING ROMANS

Roman Carthage was founded in conquest, literally built on the ruins of Rome’s greatest...

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25 May 2013

Listening to the African witness

by Jacquelyn Winston, Lamin Samneh, and the Editors | Issue 105

CHRISTIAN HISTORY SAT DOWN separately with church historians Lamin Sanneh and Jacquelyn Winston to discuss what the stories in this issue have to teach us. We asked them about the value of the African Christian tradition in the development of world Christianity and the lessons modern Americans need to hear from these stories.  

Jacquelyn Winston: As a historian of early Christianity, I believe African Christianity is one of the most important foundations of Christian faith and practice. African church fathers gave us classic formulations of...

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25 May 2013

Editor's Note

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 105

CHRISTIANITY IS OLD. Really old.

I think we all know this. We know that Christians have been at this for over 2,000 years. We, if we are Westerners, know that the setting into which Christianity was born looks very little like the setting we find ourselves in today. 

But most of the time our Christian walk is based on the things we hold in common with the first Christians—the doctrines that have endured through time that we confess each Sunday.

Sometimes it helps us to think about the context in which those doctrines were first confessed....

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25 May 2013

Early African Christianity: Did You Know?

by the Editors | Issue 105

BORN IN WATER, CARRIED BY PRAYER

Africa is the home of many Christian “firsts.” To Tertullian of Carthage we owe the earliest Christian treatise about the sacraments, On Baptism : “But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water.”

Tertullian also wrote a famous treatise on the Lord’s Prayer, reminding us that “Even the Lord Himself prayed; to whom be honor and virtue unto the ages of the ages!” (For more on Tertullian, see “See how...

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25 May 2013

Become Completely as Fire

by Michael Birkel | Issue 105

A MONASTIC ASKED AN ELDER, “What good work is there that I should do?” And he said to him, “Are not all works equal? Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him. And Elijah loved contemplative silence, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. So whatever you see your soul desire in accordance with God, do that, and maintain interior watchfulness.”  (Early monastic story)  

While early Christians from Syria, Palestine, and Cappadocia (in modern Turkey) made significant contributions to the...

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30 Nov 1999

Alone in the Desert?

by James E. Goehring | Issue 64

I N OCTOBER 346, Alexandria was abuzz with word of Archbishop Athanasius’s return from six years of exile. In that city, his Arian opponents were in retreat, and his followers were aflame with heightened zeal for their faith. Wives and husbands heeded Paul’s advice (1 Cor. 7:5) to refrain from sexual relations and turn instead to prayer. Fathers persuaded children to renounce the world, and children encouraged parents in their asceticism. Young women who had looked forward to marriage chose instead to remain virgins for Christ, and young men...

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Products

  • God with Us & The Messengers- Set of Two $19.99

    God with Us & The Messengers- Set of Two

    • DVD
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    From The Voice of the Martyrs comes God with Us, formerly called Jesus: He Lived Among Us. With newly enhanced animation, it is the dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of the last surviving apostle, John. The Messengers — Follow the small band of early Christian believers as they boldly proclaim Christ and His message in the face of great opposition resulting in the growth of the church and the unexpected conversion of its most zealous enemy.

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  • The Messengers $14.99

    The Messengers

    • DVD
    • 2016
    • Animation
    • 70 Minutes
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    • Christian History Institute

    Follow the small band of early Christian believers as they boldly proclaim Christ and His message in the face of great opposition resulting in the growth of the church and the unexpected conversion of its most zealous enemy.

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  • Exploring Ephesus: City of Apostles $14.99

    Exploring Ephesus: City of Apostles

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    Exploring Ephesus combines the fast-paced adventure of a travel show with truly rich biblical scholarship and relevant spiritual insights. Join hosts, Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Andrew Jackson, leading experts on biblical Turkey, as they journey to this important hub of the early church.

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  • In the Footsteps of St Peter $14.99

    In the Footsteps of St Peter

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    Join beloved television actor, David Suchet (PBS’s Poirot series), as he embarks on an epic journey from Galilee to Rome in search of the Apostle Peter. In this major two-part documentary series produced for the BBC, Suchet explores how a humble fisherman, known for his stubborn and impetuous personality became a leading figure in the early church, playing a key role in keeping the movement from splintering.

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  • Christian History Magazine Archive 1-120 $24.99

    Christian History Magazine Archive 1-120

    • Magazine
    • 1982-2014
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    CD-ROM includes PDF text only of Christian History & Biography Magazine Issues 1 through 120.

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  • Pocket Classics: The Persecution & Martyrdoms of Lyons in 177 AD $1.00

    Pocket Classics: The Persecution & Martyrdoms of Lyons in 177 AD

    • Other
    • 16 Pages
    • 1994
    • Christian History Institute

    The Letter of the Churches of Vienna and Lyons to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia including the story of the Blessed Blandina.

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  • Pocket Classics: First Apology of Justin $1.00

    Pocket Classics: First Apology of Justin

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    • 1994
    • 32 Pages
    • Christian History Institute

    The compelling defense of the faith written to the Roman emperor around A.D. 150 by a notable early church martyr.

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  • History of Hell $3.00

    History of Hell

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    • 2011
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    The History of Hell, a Brief Survey is a special resource from Christian History magazine presenting the history of Christian thought on hell in a non-biased way.

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  • Most Important Dates in Church History Timeline $1.99

    Most Important Dates in Church History Timeline

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    • 1990
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  • Christian History Magazine #96 - Gnostics $5.00

    Christian History Magazine #96 - Gnostics

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  • Torchlighters: The Augustine Story $10.00

    Torchlighters: The Augustine Story

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    • 2012
    • Christian History Institute

    Introduce children to the story of Augustine, who rejected fame and fortune to become a voice for truth.

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  • History of Christian Worship: Part 1, The Word $11.99

    History of Christian Worship: Part 1, The Word

    • DVD
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    • 2010
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    A History of Christian Worship: Ancient Ways, Future Paths is a six-part series that explores centuries of worship practices, as seen through the eyes of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches. From scripture, sermons and creeds to baptism and the Eucharist, from art and music to drama and media, from prayer and contemplation to service and ministry, viewers will discover the significant people and events that have shaped history and learn how modern worship practices are rooted in the earliest foundations of the Christian faith.

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  • Perpetua: Early Church Martyr $11.99

    Perpetua: Early Church Martyr

    • DVD
    • 61 Minutes
    • Documentary
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    • 2009
    • Christian History Institute

    This young mother, along with other new believers, held firm in her faith against the Roman Empire and paid the ultimate price with her life. life.

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  • Apostles' Creed - Abridged Version $23.99

    Apostles' Creed - Abridged Version

    • DVD
    • 120 Minutes
    • Documentary
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    • 2007
    • Christian History Institute

    The Apostles' Creed is a living link that takes us over centuries to the Early Church. It's a bond that unites believers today from diverse cultures and traditions. It's a concise summary of Biblical faith taught to new believers in the Early Church prior to their being baptized.

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  • How Should We Then Live? $29.99

    How Should We Then Live?

    • DVD
    • 600 Minutes/ 10 hours
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    • 1978
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    This program presents profound truths in simple language and concludes that man's only hope is a return to God's Biblical absolute — the Truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures. Each episode focuses on a significant era of history while presenting answers to modern problems.

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  • History Of Orthodox Christianity $23.99

    History Of Orthodox Christianity

    • DVD
    • 90 Minutes
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    • 1992
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  • Trial And Testimony - With PDFs $29.99

    Trial And Testimony - With PDFs

    • DVD
    • 180 Minutes
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    • 1990
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    This gripping series of six half-hour programs, produced in consultation with an international team of scholars, takes you to the actual locations to show what the early church was like, how it spread, and the persecution it endured.

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  • Jesus The New Way - With PDFs $29.99

    Jesus The New Way - With PDFs

    • DVD
    • 180 Minutes
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    • 1998
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    You will see Jesus as you have never seen him before in the context of his Jewish and Roman world. You will find explosive new meaning in his familiar words and deeds as Wright unfolds his incomparable life and shows how it remains an unavoidable summons to our world and way of thinking.

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  • A.D. (2 Disc Set) $19.99

    A.D. (2 Disc Set)

    • DVD
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    • 1984

    The earliest experiences of the Christian church are powerfully dramatized in this remarkably authentic TV mini-series epic covering the years A.D. 30-69. The perfect resource for any church or home study group wishing to explore the New Testament period, the Early Church, or the Book of Acts.

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  • History Of Christianity - With PDFs $19.99

    History Of Christianity - With PDFs

    • DVD
    • 159 Minutes
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    • 2000
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    This is a survey course designed to further stimulate your curiosity by providing glimpses of some of the pivotal events in the spread Christianity and sketches of great Christian figures who have significantly affected Christian history thereby shaping the history of the world.

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  • St. Paul In Greece $11.99

    St. Paul In Greece

    • DVD
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    • 2000
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    Host David Nunn takes us to the original locations where the dramatic events of the Book of Acts took place and unfolds the impact of Paul's message of the risen Savior upon those communities.

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  • Apostle Paul And The Earliest Churches $11.99

    Apostle Paul And The Earliest Churches

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    Paul The Emissary

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    In this drama starring Garry Cooper we follow Saul the angry zealot to Paul the servant of Christ who will pay any price to bring his message to the world.

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  • Peter And Paul $14.99

    Peter And Paul

    • DVD
    • 194 Minutes
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    • 1981
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    Anthony Hopkins stars in this epic network television mini-series brings to life the precarious existence of early Christianity.

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