History of Christianity's:The Surprising Of 2,000 Years

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The History of Christianity
The History Of Christianity

History of Christianity

While history can be seemingly quite a bore, the subject of humankind’s past is necessary for survival as we must learn from our mistakes in order to improve.  Biblical history has a rich history of roughly 6,000 years and tells of the relationship between God and His people for thousands of years. Yet, from the time of Jesus’ ascension to today, the world of Christianity has largely evolved to be strikingly different. Hundreds of denominations now exist, each with their own set of doctrines and faith practices, but how did so many teachings come into existence when it was only Jesus at the First Coming who had the truth? Let’s look into the evolution of Christianity.

The Demographic Statistics of Christianity’s History: The Most Widely-Followed Religion

In a 2015 demographic analysis by the PEW Research Center, Christianity remains to be the biggest religious group in the world accounting to a third or thirty-one (31%) percent of the earth’s entire population. In numbers, that is roughly around 2.3 billion followers. In recent data reported in 2020, the numbers seem to remain the same, putting Christianity as the most predominant religion in the world, with Islam at a close second.

Interestingly, Christianity is most-widely practiced in East Timor where almost all of its populations are Christians, which is at 99.1%. This is followed by American Samoa at a 98% out of its whole population. In terms of countries with the largest number of Christians, the US tops the list followed by Brazil. Aside from the two mentioned, Christianity is also widely-followed in Mexico and the Philippines. 

 

What is Christianity? What do they believe in?

Christianity is a monotheistic religion wherein there is belief in only one true God who created everything, from the heavens to the earth. The foundation of the religion lies in the scriptures of the Bible as they contain records of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Jesus Christ was sent to save God’s people from their sins through his sacrifice and resurrection, and he fulfilled at least 300 Old Testament prophecies thereby proving him to be the Promised Messiah.

The New Testament of the Bible outlines the teachings of Jesus and written by many of his Apostles which serves as a guide to Christian, yet the Old Testament also holds historical records imperative to a believer’s knowledge and faith. It is a collection of sixty-six (66) books separated into the Old and New Testaments, otherwise known as the old and new promise. Christianity has branched out into numerous different types of interpretations that often differ and contradict, but the goal of a believer is to stay true to the core belief  from one another. To gain a better understanding of how Christianity has changed through the years, let us now look into its past.

The Political Atmosphere 2,000 Years Ago

During the time of Jesus’ ministry in the first century AD, the Roman Empire had control over three regions namely Mediterranean Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Although they were separate, they were united by three main and common forces: political loyalty, economy, and intellectual culture.

The history of political loyalty during this time is rather bloody. When Rome was first established in 753 BC, its political setup was a monarchy in which one man ruled the empire. Yet, the Roman empire’s reign endured for a few centuries until 510 BC when the reign of kings was finally overthrown and Rome became a Republic where power no longer rested on one man or king, but rather upon the hands of the society’s upper class (the Senate). 

This transition led to severe social tensions which caused the Roman Republic to descend into a bloodshed of civil wars. The civil unrest called for a single strong ruler who could restore peace and order, yet would also introduce Rome into a dictatorship, Julius Caesar, and through his efforts the Roman Republic would transform into the Roman Empire. 

In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was betrayed and assassinated by Brutus and Cassius, who believed in the Roman Republic and the power of the Senate, however, this would only bring more chaos to the empire. To offset the social and political tensions, Octavius Caesar was put into power and was able to restore peace and stability to the Roman Empire after his successful defeat of the assassinators and all rivals of the state. 

Octavius’ name was then changed to “Augustus” by the Senate which means “exalted one,” and he proved worthy of his name in his 45 years of governance. He reigned from 31 BC to AD 14, which coincided with the birth of Jesus as he was mentioned in Luke 2:1 when he ordered the census which led to the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

Despite being called the “Roman” empire, the prevalent intellectual culture during this time was the Greek, or what was called Hellenism, which came from the Greek word Hellas meaning Greece. During this time, religion also flourished as philosophy, religion, and culture induce reciprocal interactions within each other as they all influence each other.

History of Christianity: Early Christianity

In 63 BC, the Roman Empire successfully conquered Jerusalem with Hyrcanus defeating Aristobulus to the Jewish throne. Hyrcanus was then named political leader and high priest of Judaea under the supervision of the Roman king of Syria but unrest soon followed with the rebellion of Hyrcanus’ son, Alexander. The rebellion led to a restructured governance and the Romans placed Herod Antipater as ruler while Hyrcanus was deprived of all political power and remained as a high priest. If you are familiar with children’s bible stories, you might have heard the name King Herod. He is the same King Herod who wanted to kill Jesus Christ when he first heard of the birth of the Messiah who was prophesied to become King. 

In AD 6, a Jewish rebellion broke out against the Roman Empire, however, they were defeated, and Augustus who was emperor at that time, put Palestine under direct Roman supervision. Pontius Pilate was the assigned Roman governor, and he would be known in the Bible for being in charge of Jesus’ final trial and allowing the Jews to condemn Jesus to a crucifixion.  

How did Christianity spread throughout history?

Within the Book of Acts, the disciples and apostles received the Spirit of Pentecost to be able to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations over the globe. In Acts 1:8, it was prophesied that the followers of Christ would be persecuted and forced to scatter which was fulfilled in Acts 8:1. While the disciples and apostles suffered many forms of persecution, such as being stoned, skinned alive, crucified, and much more, it helped the message of salvation to spread to the Gentiles. During Jesus’ ministry in John 1:11-13, there is a shift in who are the children of God, no longer would someone need to be a physically born Jew to be considered God’s chosen people but if they heard and believed in Jesus’ teachings they could become a child of God. Therefore, as God desires for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, it was the duty of the disciples and the apostles to evangelize to all nations regardless of the persecution they experienced. 

 

One of Christianity’s well-known evangelists and converts, Apostle Paul helped to lead the movement of the gospel to many foreign nations and was responsible for saving thousands of lives. While he was inside the prison in Rome, Italy, he wrote his Epistles, known as his letters to the churches. However, by the time the gospel reached Europe, believers had begun interpreting the scriptures according to their own standards. After that, an individual could belong to the church through an act of baptism and services, in most churches, were set to occur on Sundays with midweek service on Wednesdays. Today, different denominations have their own ways of carrying out communion, baptism, and worship. 

In the past, Christians were heavily persecuted throughout the Roman Empire for centuries. Emperor Nero blamed Christians for every unfortunate event, including a fire that burned much of Rome as mentioned earlier. As a result, the disciples and apostles were forced to remain secretive as they hid and lived in underground catacombs. Never allowed to see the light of day, these passionate followers of Christ continued to evangelize and refused to let the slander and persecution hinder the work of God.

Ultimately, in AD 313, the Edict of Milan was passed, which guaranteed legality of religion throughout the Roman Empire, ending the persecution of Christians. Furthermore, Gregory I the Great played a significant role in establishing a strong and influential papacy and church machinery. He established an early system which the Church and yielded as much power as the State. Those with specific duties in the church were also given the title of Archbishops, who would then supervise the bishops, and the Pope would supervise the archbishops.

Those who succeeded Gregory continued to expand the church’s influence in both the social and political aspects of medieval society. English missionaries in the 8th century influenced the French to adopt a system of papal governance. However, the rise of feudalism threatened and curbed the influence that the Christian church had amassed. This saw the Church fall under the influence of secular local rulers and kings, toward the end of the ninth century.

However, during the 5th century, when the Roman Empire started to break and fall to chaos and an unstable infrastructure. Soon, Germanic barbarian tribes took over territories within the Roman Empire, triggering the Dark Ages in history. These events led to the  establishment of the Catholic Church as the exclusive source of moral authority within the kingdom and possessed power that could rival the king himself. The Church had its own lands, laws and taxes and was so influential that it also collected taxes from its followers. Furthermore, the Church also accepted various types of gifts from anyone who was looking for divine favor and from the nobility as well. As the role of the Church grew, archbishops, bishops, and the Pope bore bigger influence on the reigning kings in Europe. Those who spoke negatively of the church or opposed it were excommunicated and labelled as a social outcast, so that they were not eligible for communion or to attend services in the church.

 

The Big Divide in Christian History: The Reformation of the Church

The Protestant Reformation began in the 16th century and was the result of the Catholic Church’s alleged corruption with indulgences, the increasing wealth and power, which clearly undermined its spiritual authority. Martin Luther developed and hammered 95 Theses about the Catholic Church upon its doors. His reformation perspective was from a theological root rather than of corruption as he questioned the authority of the Catholic Pope over the concept of purgatory and the doctrine about the saints. His key theological reforms were founded on “sola scriptura” meaning the Scripture alone is authoritative and “sola fide,” which means justification is by faith and not by works. Because of this, Luther was excommunicated in 1521 and has since then inspired a wave of reformations in different places.

The Christianity Map Now

Christianity is considered as the world’s largest religion with over two billion followers. With its humble beginnings from a single man, who was the Promised Messiah according to the Old Testament, the religion spread throughout the world  by Jesus’ disciples, then by missionaries, emperors, and kings. 

Through conquests, crusades, and by word of mouth, Christianity has had a profound influence over the last two thousand years on world history through influencing cultures, politics, and entire empires. Their message began to spread through the hard work and efforts from Saul of Tarsus, who later transformed to Paul the Apostle, went on three missionary journeys to plant the word of God into peoples’ hearts. The Christians were persecuted by many of the Roman Emperors, yet this only motivated the disciples and apostles to spread the word more and soon the number of Christians grew exponentially. 

According to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians have lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium in 1910. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe estimated around twenty-six percent. A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas and about one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa and one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific demonstrating the result of the disciples’ evangelism efforts.

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