The Sundering of Christendom

by fortmarinus

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you […]” – 1 Corinthians 1:10.i


Today, there are about 2.2 billion Christians worldwide ii and over 350 Christian movements or denominationsiii. Much ink and blood has been spilled regarding these divisions.

Those who are slightly familiar with the history of Christianity may recall at least three major historical events:

  • 1st century: The Founding of the Church
  • 11th century: The Great Schism, separating Orthodox and Roman Catholics
  • 16th century: The Protestant Reformation, separating Protestants from Catholics

A cursory glance at history suggests that the Christian church was basically a homogeneous body until the Great Schism. To some extent, this is true after the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empireiv and Emperor Theodosius made it the official State Religionv.

However, upon further inspection, one will find that the situation is not so clear. The chart below illustrates historical origin of the various Christian groups or branches who claim to be descended from the State Religion of the Late Roman Empire. Technically, these churches claim to be (or be a part of) the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Churchvi.

The scope of this illustration is restricted to the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, The Oriental Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, and certain other relevant historical communities. The chart notably excludes the Protestant groups, including the Church of England. It is also lacking a thorough examination of pre-Constantinian Christian communities. Liturgical families or rites are also highlighted.

The chart takes the form of a timeline, beginning from the first century to the present day (left to right).

  1. Bible Gateway: 1 Corinthians 1:10 []
  2. Pew Research: Global Christianity Report []
  3. Rough count of the member list of the World Council of Churches []
  4. Wikipedia: The Edict of Milan, AD313 []
  5. Wikipedia: The Edict of Thessalonica, AD380 []
  6. Wikipedia: Four Marks of the Church []