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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
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
 At the age of 30, Jesus began a public
ministry. He preached, taught, did good
works and reportedly performed
 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’ 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
 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
The Early Christian Church
 Christians had given their
religion structure, known as a
hierarchy. Locally, a priest
would lead small groups in a
 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