Christianity The rise of a new religion in the Roman Empire Rome and Judea By 6 BCE, Rome ruled Judea, the home of the Jews. According to their religion, the Jews believed that they would be free, led by a savior known as the Messiah. He would restore the kingdom of the Jews. About 20 years later, many Jews believed that this Messiah had arrived, although not in the form that many expected. Map of Judea and Surrounding Territory Jesus of Nazareth Around 6-4 BCE, a Jew named Jesus was born in Bethlehem near the village of Nazareth. He was baptized by the prophet John the Baptist and became a carpenter. At the age of 30, Jesus began a public ministry. He preached, taught, did good works and reportedly performed miracles. His teachings contained many ideas from Jewish traditions, such as monotheism and the 10 commandments. Jesus stressed the importance of people’s love of God, neighbors, enemies and themselves. He also talked about the establishment of an eternal kingdom after death. Growth of the Movement The main source of information about Jesus comes from the Gospels, books thought to be written by his followers. These followers, or apostles, were pupils of Jesus. Jesus’ fame grew as he traveled from town to town. Because he ignored wealth and status, his message had special appeal to the poor. Death of Jesus Jesus’ popularity concerned Roman and Jewish leaders. Huge crowds greeted him as the Messiah. The chief priest of the Jews denied that Jesus was the Messiah and accused him of blasphemy. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate accused Jesus of defying the authority of Rome. Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion (nailed to a cross until dead). Jesus’ followers believed that after his death, his body rose from the dead and he appeared to his followers before ascending to heaven. How does Christianity spread? The terms Christ and Christianity come from the Greek Christos, meaning messiah or savior. Jesus’ followers believed he had triumphed over death and they began to spread his ideas, creating a new religion in the process. One of Jesus’ followers, Paul, spent his life after his conversion to spreading Christianity. Pax Romana, which made travel on roads safe and easy, and provided a common language (Latin), allowed the religion to spread quickly. Paul stressed that anyone could become a Christian, a message that had wide appeal. In 66 CE, a Jewish rebellion occurred in Judea. Roman stormed Jerusalem four years later and destroyed the Jewish Temple. Another rebellion occurred in 132, which marked the end of the Jewish political state until modern times. Over a million Jews died in the rebellions and the survivors were scattered into exile, a process known as the Diaspora. Jewish Diaspora Christian Persecution • Christians also posed problems for the Romans. They refused to worship Roman gods, which was seen as opposition to Roman rule. • Some leaders also blamed Christians for political and economic troubles. • Christians were exiled, imprisoned or executed. Many were burned, crucified or killed by wild animals. The Spread of Christianity What made Christianity appealing? Despite this persecution, Christianity spread. By the third century, there were millions of Christians in the empire and beyond. Christianity was appealing as a religion because it embraced all people-slaves, women, poor and rich alike. It gave hope to the powerless. It offered a personal relationship with a loving God and promised eternal life after death. The Emperor Constantine In 312 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine was in the midst of a battle when he prayed for divine help. He had a vision of a cross- the symbol of Christianity. Ordering his soldiers to place crosses on their shields, Constantine was victorious in battle and gave credit to the Christian God. The next year, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, declaring tolerance for Christians. The Early Christian Church Christians had given their religion structure, known as a hierarchy. Locally, a priest would lead small groups in a church. A bishop would supervise several local churches. The apostle Peter had traveled to Rome to become the first bishop there. All priests and bishops traced their authority to him. Many considered Peter to be the father or head (known as Pope) of the Christian Church. Early Scholars and Books As the church grew, there was disagreement about church teachings. To achieve unity within the church, leaders set a single standard of belief. They set these down in the New Testament, which was added to the Hebrew Bible. The Nicene Creed, written in 325 CE, set down the basic beliefs of the church. Anything outside those beliefs was considered a heresy. Key scholars and leaders like Augustine further developed the ideas of the Church. He taught that people needed God’s grace and the sacraments to be saved.