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The Rise of Christianity
Religious Diversity
• A growing number of people were
looking elsewhere for spiritual
• Some turned to mystery religions
that had secret rituals and promised
special rewards.
• Generally, Rome tolerated the
varied religions as long as they
acknowledged the divine spirit of
the emperor.
• Most were content to worship the
Roman gods along with their own.
Divisions in Judea
• (63 B.C.) The Romans conquered
Judea, where most Jews lived.
• To avoid violating the belief in one
God, the Romans excused Jews from
worshipping the Roman Gods.
• Many Jews had absorbed Greek
customs and ideas.
– Jewish conservatives rejected these
influences and called for strict
obedience to Jewish laws and traditions.
Divisions in Judea
• The Jews that were not willing
to live under Roman rule were
called Zealots.
• Some believed that a messiah,
or anointed king sent by God,
would soon appear to lead the
Jewish people to freedom.
Jewish Revolt
• (66 A.D.) The Jews rebelled and the
Romans crushed them.
– Jerusalem was captured and in the next
century, destroyed.
• Many Jews were killed or enslaved
and transported to various parts of
the empire.
• Growing numbers left Judea and
spread out around the
• Jewish rabbis, or scholars,
preserved Jewish law.
• Commitment to learning law and
traditions enabled the Jews to
survive in the future.
Jesus and His Message
• Four followers of Jesus, Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John left accounts
in what is known as the Gospels, or
first four books of the new
testament of the Bible.
• Jesus was born about 4 B.C. in
Bethlehem, near Jerusalem.
• He was a descendant of King David
of Israel.
• An angel told Jesus’ mother, Mary
that she would give birth to the
• He grew up in Nazareth and
worshipped God and followed
Jewish law.
• He may have worked as a carpenter.
Life of Jesus
• At age 30, he began preaching to
villagers near the Sea of Galilee.
• To help him in his mission, he
recruited twelve followers, known
as the apostles.
– Peter was the chief apostle.
• Large crowds gathered to hear
Jesus’ teachings, especially when
word spread that he had performed
miracles of healing.
• He often used parables, or short
stories with simple moral lessons, to
communicate his ideas.
• After three years, he and his
disciples went to Jerusalem to
spread his message there.
The Message
• Jesus believed in one God and
accepted the Ten Commandments.
• He preached obedience to the laws
of Moses and defended the
teachings of the Jewish prophets.
– He also preached new beliefs.
• He called himself the Son of God.
• Many people believed he was the
• Jesus proclaimed that his mission
was to bring spiritual salvation and
eternal life to anyone who would
believe in him.
The Sermon on the Mount
• “Blessed are the meek, for they shall
inherit the earth. Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be
satisfied. Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed
are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God. Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they will be called
sons of God.”
The Message
• Jesus emphasized God’s love and
taught the need for justice, morality,
and service to others.
• “Love the Lord your God with all
your heart”
• “Love your neighbor as yourself”
• “Love your enemies”
• “If anyone hits you on one cheek, let
him hit the other one, too.”
Death on the Cross
• Some Jews welcomed Jesus to
Jerusalem, others thought he was a
dangerous troublemaker.
• Jewish priests felt that he was
challenging their leadership.
• To the Roman authorities, he was a
revolutionary who might lead the
Jews in a rebellion against Roman
• Jesus was betrayed by one of his
disciples, Judas.
• Arrested by the Romans, he was
tried and condemned to be
Death on the Cross
• Crucifixion- a Roman method of
execution where one is nailed to or
hung on a cross and left to die.
• Rumors spread through Jerusalem
that Jesus was not dead at all.
• His disciples saw and talked with
Jesus, who had risen from the dead.
• The Gospels say that Jesus
commanded them to spread his
teachings, and that he then
ascended into heaven.
Spread of Christianity
• Following Jesus’ death, the apostles
and other disciples spread Jesus’
message and helped establish
Christian communities.
• Some Jews in Judea accepted that
Jesus was the Christ, from the Greek
for “the anointed one.”
• These people became the first
Christians and for a time,
Christianity remained a sect within
Spread of Christianity
• Gradually, disciples of Jesus
began to preach in Jewish
communities throughout the
Roman world.
• Peter established Christianity in
the city of Rome itself.
• Paul played the most influential
role in the spread of
Work of Paul
• Paul had never seen Jesus.
• He had been among those who
persecuted Jesus’ followers.
• One day he had a vision where Jesus
spoke to him.
• He converted and as a missionary,
spread the teachings of Jesus
beyond Jewish communities to
gentiles, or non-Jews.
Work of Paul
• A tireless traveler, Paul journeyed
around the Mediterranean and set
up churches from Mesopotamia to
• In long letters to Christian
communities, he explained difficult
doctrines, judged disputes, and
expanded Christian teachings.
Works of Paul
• These letters are known as epistles,
found in the new testament of the
• Christian communities:
• Paul taught that whoever followed
Jesus’ teachings would achieve
salvation, or eternal life.
Christian Persecution
• Rome’s tolerant attitude did not
extend to Christianity.
• Christians were suspected of
disloyalty because they refused to
make sacrifices to the emperor or to
honor the Roman gods.
• When Christians met in secret to
avoid persecution, rumors spread
that they were engaged in evil
• Roman rulers like Nero increased
persecution, using Christians as
scapegoats, blaming them for social
and economic ills.
Christian Persecution
• Thousands of Christians
became martyrs, people who
suffer or die for their beliefs.
• According to tradition, both
Peter and Paul were killed in
Rome during the reign of Nero.
Reasons for Christianity’s Appeal
• Christianity continued to spread
however. Why?
• The humble, poor, and oppressed
found comfort in Jesus’ message of
• Equality, human dignity, and the
promise of a better life beyond the
grave were attractive teachings.
• Missionaries like Paul had added
ideas from Plato, the Stoics, and
other Greek thinkers to Jesus’
Reasons for Christianity’s Appeal
• Educated Romans were attracted to
a religion that had the discipline and
moderation of Greek philosophy.
• Missionary work was made easy
because Christians traveled along
Roman roads and across the
Mediterranean Sea, which was
protected by Roman fleets.
• Christian documents were usually
written in Greek or Latin, main
languages in the Roman empire.
Reasons for Christianity’s Appeal
• People were impressed by the
willingness of Christians to die
for their religious beliefs.
• “The blood of the martyr is the
seed of the Christian Church”
noted one Roman.
Persecution Ends
• (313 A.D.) Persecution of Christians
finally ended when Roman emperor
Constantine issued the Edict of
• Edict of Milan- granted freedom of
worship to all citizens.
• He was influenced by his mother,
who was a devout Christian.
• 80 years later, emperor Theodosius
made Christianity the official
religion of the Roman empire.
Early Patterns of Life and Worship
• Baptism- renouncing evil and
having their sins forgiven.
• Considered each other as
– “brother” or “sister”
• Eucharist- eating bread and
drinking wine in a sacred meal.
– Commemorates the Last Supper.
Early Structure of the Church
• Only men were allowed to become
members of the clergy.
• Each community had its own priest.
• Priests came under the authority of
a bishop.
• Bishops were responsible for an
area called a diocese.
• Bishops traced their spiritual
authority to the apostles, and
through the apostles, to Jesus.
Early Structure of the Church
• Bishops of Rome, Antioch,
Alexandria, Jerusalem, and
Constantinople gained the title of
• Except for Rome, all these cities
were in the eastern empire.
• The Christian church developed into
a hierarchy, or organization where
officials are arranged according to
Divisions in the Church
• Bishops in the western city of Rome,
claimed greater authority and came
to be called Popes.
• The eastern bishops thought all five
patriarchs should be equal.
• The emergence of heresies caused
• Heresy- belief said to be contrary to
the official teachings of the church.
• To end disputes, councils of Church
leaders met to decide official
Theology and Scholarship
• Early Christians produced an
abundance of works on JudeoChristian theology.
• Theology- talk or discourse about
• Clement and Origen were both
scholars and teachers that lived in
the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
– They had several works written in
• Augustine, bishop of Hippo in N.
Africa, also wrote many works.
– The City of God