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The Rise of
Christianity
Essential Questions
1. How did Christianity build on Jewish
beliefs?
2. Who was Jesus and what did he do?
3. What did Jesus’ disciples do after his
death?
4. What was Rome’s attitude towards
Christianity in its early stages and how
did it change?
Christianity’s Jewish Roots
• Rome had conquered the
Jewish kingdom of
Judea in 63 B.C.E.
– Where is Judea?
• Many Jews hated being
under Roman rule and
sought out ways to
secure freedom from
foreign rulers
• Sacred Jewish writings
promised a Messiah who
come and free them
Life of Jesus
• Gospels – accounts of
Jesus’ life written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John
– 1st four books of the New
Testament
• Born in Bethlehem and
raised in Nazareth
– Father, Joseph, was a
carpenter
– Not much known about
life before preaching
– Celebrate birthday as
Christmas
Teachings of Jesus
• Preached justice, compassion, coming of God’s
kingdom
– Delivered teachings using parables: stories with
morals
• Sermon on the Mount became most famous
– Asked people to love and pray for enemies
– To live simply and humbly
– “Love thy neighbor”
• Had 12 disciples as his followers
• Some Jewish leaders angered by his teachings
– Also upset that some called him the Messiah
Review Questions:
What did some Jews believe the Messiah
would do?
What form did Jesus’ teachings often take?
Jesus – A Threat to Rome?
• Claim that Jesus was Messiah was direct
threat to Roman rule
– Power and authority of Roman rulers came
into question
• During Passover, Jesus had criticized the
running of a temple
• Jewish leaders appointed by Rome
arrested Jesus and turned him over to the
Romans for punishment
Death of Jesus
• Brought to trial before
Pontius Pilate
– Called for execution by
crucifixion: hanging on a
cross until suffocated
– Buried in tomb, but on the
third day some followers
claim that he had risen from
the dead
• Resurrection: return to life
– Account of this proved to
followers that he was divine
– Followers believed Jesus gave
his life to create new world
– In this new world, sin and
death are defeated
The Early Christians
• First disciples were Jews, also known as apostles
– Wanted to spread Jesus’ message and convert
others
• Early church stressed sharing property, meals,
and practicing charity
– All members were equal including women
– This greatly appealed to women, slaves, and the
poor
• Romans leaders ignored Christians at first
Spread of Christianity
• Christianity becomes separate from Judaism
and starts to attract many Gentiles (nonJews)
• One of the first missionary (a person who
spreads faith by converting others) was Paul
– Had Roman citizenship
– Pax Romana and the Roman roads aided
in his travels
Paul’s Influence
• Started many new churches
• Wrote letters to the churches
explaining Christian beliefs
– These letters became part of
New Testament as Epistles
– Wrote that Christianity
removed barriers between people
• Jews, Greeks, slaves, man,
woman are “all one in Christ
Jesus”
– Eventually persecuted (opposed
or harassed) by Roman emperor
Nero and died in Rome
A Christian Threat to Rome?
• Romans did allow other religions in empire
• But became alarmed at rate of Gentiles becoming
Christians
– Some said didn’t have to worship emperor
– Appeal of women, slaves, and the poor also
alarming
– Thought God’s kingdom implied an end of the
Roman Empire
• Started persecuting Christians
– Some hid in catacombs (underground cemeteries
with secret passages)
– Many Christians died at hands of Romans
Constantine
• Constantine became emperor
in 306 C.E.
– At first allowed
persecutions of Christians
• During battle for leadership
in 312 C.E., Constantine
prayed for help
– Said he saw cross in sky
and prediction of win
– Had soldiers put crosses
on shields and battle flags
– Constantine won the battle
that day
Legalization and Adoption of
Christianity
• Constantine ended persecutions
• Edict of Milan (312 C.E.) made Christianity a
legal religion within the Roman Empire
• Constantine had churches built, and made
Sunday a holy day
• Didn’t formally convert to Christianity until
he was on his death bed
• Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the
official religion of Roman Empire in 380
Structure of the
Church
• Priests and deacons run local
parishes
• Obeyed bishops: local church
leaders
• Christian church was all
Roman Catholic until the
1500s
• Much later, Rome’s bishop
becomes pope: the most
important bishop
• Created sacraments –
religious rites like baptism
and communion
Power of the Church
• Christianity becomes very wealthy and
powerful
• The Church became the source of moral
authority
• Loyalty to the Church became more
important than loyalty to empire
–Aides in the decline of the Roman
Empire
Essential Questions:
Take a few moments and answer these questions.
1.
2.
3.
4.
How did Christianity build on Jewish beliefs?
Who was Jesus and what did he do?
What did Jesus’ disciples do after his death?
What was Rome’s attitude towards
Christianity in its early stages and how did it
change?