Were there other christian religions besides catholicism before Martin Luther?

I’ve never been clear whether the RCC had a complete monopoly be for the “great schism”. Did all present day christian religions evolve from that time, or were there some that had a parallel existance with the RRC even further back?

Bonus question: how many christian religions are there? To weed out the chaff like the Branch Davidians, let’s just count those that have more than a million nominal adherents.

There were several different groups of Christians before the Protestant Reformation. Largest and most politically important, of course, would be the Orthodox patriarchates who would hold that Catholicism split of from them. In addition, there were (and are) various other traditions among the Copts of Egypt, the Syrians, and the Ethiopians who are seen either as perpetuating earlier heresies or as simply following different traditions, depending on how one frames the perspective.

Even within the Catholic church there have long been separate groups who follow different rites of the liturgy. Some older ones (such as the Gothic Rite) were subsumed by the Roman Rite. Some older ones have always maintained a certain partial independence from Rome, and a few were formed from among Orthodox congregfations who chose to align with Rome instead of the Orthodox after the Great Schism.

As to the number of Christian religious traditions, you might try looking up that info at ReligiousTolerance.org.

Answering off the top of my head, the Greek Orthodox Church was around at the time of Luther. I’m not sure, but the Russian Orthodox Church may have been around, also.

Monophysites. Nestorians. Bogomils. Arians. Cathars.

The “Syrian Christians of St. Thomas” who live in Kerala, South India and are the subject of Arundhati Roy’s prizewinning novel The God of Small Things.

Yep, the Russian Orthodox church was around before Luther.

There were numerous Orthodox churches which displayed many differences, which Tom has already mentioned.

There were also numerous heresies which had very distinct beliefs from the main Christian churches. Arianism was a heresy which survived for about 300 years among the Vandals and Goths before being wiped out c.650. Bogmulism which started in Bulgaria c.975 had many eccentric beliefs and was large enough for there to be sevreal distinct varities within it. It was the main religion in Bosnia from 1199 'til 1463 when the province became Islamic. The Bogumils alos spawned the Cathars, the object of the Albesingian crusade (1209 -1229) (The term ‘Bugger’, which is a corruption of ‘Bulgar’ was first used as a popular term for the Cathars, which through accusations of sodomy against their priest caste came into it’s present usuage.

Russian Orthodox is the same Church as Greek Orthodox. They are just two different jurisdictions.

A good “working list” of Eastern Orthodox Churches that recognize each other can be found at http://aggreen.net/autocephaly/autoceph.html

Likewise, a list of Oriental Orthodox (non-Chalcedonian) Churches can be found at http://aggreen.net/autocephaly/oriental.html

Forgot to mention the Celtic church was predominant in Ireland and Great Britian, before being subsumed by Western Orthodoxy. Also from Britain came Pelagius who started the heresy of Pelagianism which IIRC found favour in North Afica for a while.

There are also several heresies that attempt to recoincile earlier heresies with other beliefs, such as semi-Arianism and semi-Pelgianism.

The history, from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, is that the Nestorians schismed first and essentially went far east. They are the ancestors of the “Church of the East”/“Chaldean Church”/“Assyrian Church”. Their major doctrine is that the “man Jesus” is a distinct entity from “the Christ” and that the two were fused in such a way that they always were distinct individuals. The Council of Chalcedon provoked another schism, although this may have been more of a misunderstanding of the same doctrine than two different doctrines. The Oriental Orthodox came from this. Throughout this era we also had flareups of Arianism (Christ is just a created being), Monarchism (the Holy Spirit and the Logos are not really God), Pneumatachianism (the Holy Spirit is a lesser being, not as fully God as the Son and the Father), Montanism (mandatory speaking in tongues, belief that the Paraclete was a human being, etc.), but these didn’t end up forming their own groups that lasted long. There were also various flavors of Judaizers (those who insisted upon maintaining the Levitical practices). Some of them tread a thin li,e, but others were doctrinally sound. As they generally only opened their numbers to born Jews, they dwindled and vanished.

Then the Great Schism occurred in the 12th century. From the Orthodox perspective, Rome broke away from the Church, going its own way and abandoning all the other Ancient Apostolic Sees. Yes, there is more than one Apostolic See–Rome just happens to be the only one in the West. To complicate matters further, St. Peter the Apostle was also Patriarch of Antioch. So Antioch and Rome both have the Thrones of Peter. And to make matters even more complicated, the Patriarch of Alexandria was known as “Pope” at least as long as was the Patriarch of Rome. Yes, both bore the title “Pope”, and this was not controversial.

Anyway, Rome has never held a monopoly on Christianity, as far as the Orthodox are concerned (although she was a bastion of Orthodoxy during the Ikonoclasm era).

No, the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches are distinct and both claim to be the primary sucessor of Byzantine Orthodoxy.

Also, Dogface the title ‘pope’ or ‘papa’ was orginally used by all bishops and only later became the sole reserve of the Bishop of Rome.

Eastern Orthodox writers have pronounced this “Celtic” Church (actually "Church of the British Isles–it was really a fusion of “Celtic” and Germanic cultural elements’ interpretations of the Christian theme) to be at least doctrinally and sacramentally acceptable enough so that St Patrick and other pre-1100 saints of the British Isles are considered acceptable for Orthodox veneration. Any differences between Insular and Continental forms seem to have been more in practices than in doctrines.

Where are you coming up with this rubbish?

I happen to be an Orthodox Chrisitian. It is our ecclesiology that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Greece are still both part of the same Church.

Where are you coming up with the daft claim you have made? If you would like, I can put you into contact with clergy and Bishops of various Orthoddox jurisdictions who will disabuse you of your utter ignorance.
So, you who think to correct me on Orthodox Ecclesiology, who is your Bishop? Mine is Nicholas of Detroit (if I remember the diocesan borders correctly).

According to Bede, the biggies were the date of Easter and the correct tonsure for monks.

No there are differences, though the two churches are in communion with each other. The Patriach of Moscow has historically maintained that he is sucessor to the Patriach of Constantinople , something that the Greek Orthodox church does not recognize. In the US for example there is the Orthodox Church in America (recieving their mandate from the Patriach of Moscow) and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America both with seperate Archibishops both styled as the Primate of America, a Russiann Orthodox would not recognize the direct authority of a Greek Orthodox bishop even if he fell within the geographical boundaries of said bishop’s diocese. There are also liturgical differences between them and disagreement about the date of Easter.

Then who is the Patriarch of Constantinople the successor of?

Likewise, give a cite for you UTTERLY FALSE claim about a dispute over the date of Pascha. Last time I checked, the Russians and Greeks celebrate it on the same date and according to the same reckoning. If you’d like, I can get you into contact with clergy who will tell you the same.

Who is your Bishop? What Orthodox parish do you attend?

I’ll add here 3 important early sects that no one else has mentioned–the Essenes, the Donatists, and the Gnostics. The Roman church hated them all and wiped them out, but their spirits live on; the Matrix movies borrow heavily from Gnosticism. Look them up

The Essenes were a Jewish group and every attempt to link them to Christianity has failed.
The Donatists were an odd bunch that broke off more for politics and personalities than theology. They aligned themselves with the loser of a political rivalry and met a mixed fate of being overthrown when he was knocked over by the emperor or of reconciling with the mainstream church.
The Gnostics (who preceded Christianity and only embraced some Christian teachings as an accretion to their own beliefs) were fiecely opposed by the mainstream Christians, but they died out on their own before the Christians had the political power to do anything to them.

The bishop of Constantinoiple lost his postion as head of the Eastern Orthodox church when Constantninople fell, the Muscovite princes due to their vague descendancy from the Byzantine Emperor claimed to be the successors of the B. empire and the Patriaxh of Moscow also claimed to be the head of Eastern Orthodoxy.

I’m not to sure about Easter, actually I think they use the same algorithm now, but historically they fell on different dates due to the use of different calenders.

Yes, I know most Orthodox view their church as one but they have seperate histories and objectiviely are different churches (Slavic-rite and Greek-rite, etc.) with the various patriachs in communion with each other.

The Patriarch of Constantinople was NEVER “head of the Eastern Orthodox Church”. I say this as someone who is under the omophor of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Likewise, I want to see a specific cite for your utter lie about Russa and the Greeks and the dating of Pascha. Of course, you will not be able to provide it, merely spouting idle falsehoods as you are.

Where are you coming up with this igorant spew?

Who is your Bishop? What Orthodox parish do you attend. Who are you to define what is and is not a “Church” as far as Orthodox doctrine on what constitutes a Church? What Synod do you represent? Do you now seek to lecture us on our soteriology?

THe Patriach of Constaniople was one of several bishops who claimed apostilic succession and as patriach of the capital of the ‘Roman’ empire he was the most senior bishop in the East (The first council of Constaniople proclaimed: “The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honour after the Bishop of Rome, because it is New Rome”, this was not recognized in the West), it was the undue influence exerted by the Byzantine Emperor over the early (Eastern) church and the refusal of Western Churches to recognize any sort of primacy of the Archbishop of Constantiniople that contribued to the great schism.
I believe the historical differences between Greek and Russian easter was to do with the afdoption of different calenders, however I know there are still difference between some Eastern Orthodox churches over the date of Easter: