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During the time of Pax Romana, the Roman military conquered Israel and Judea, home to
many people of the Hebrew faith. During this time, the Romans let the Jews worship and
did not require them to worship Romans gods since the Romans knew it would be against
the Jewish faith. Still, many Jews did not like Roman rule and waited for a “messiah”, or
savior to come and get rid of the Romans and bring God’s kingdom.
There is one man who claimed to be the Messiah during this time, Jesus. What is known
about Jesus comes from the Gospels commonly found in the Bible. Jesus was born in a
town called Bethlehem to a modest family. Once Jesus turned 30, he went out preaching
that the kingdom of God was near. He healed many people of disease, drove out demons,
and defied the social order of the day. His message was a call to turn from their rebellion
and sin against God, but at the same time preaching that people should love each other as
they love themselves. He also challenged religious leaders of the time, saying that those
who believe that he is the Son of God and commit their lives to following him will have
eternal life. The Jewish leaders realized that they were losing control of the people as
they turned to follow Jesus.
The Jewish leaders dealt with this man by having the Romans execute him. They
justified it by saying he was committing a sin by claiming that he was the Son of God, or
committing blasphemy. They thought this would scatter Jesus’ followers and he would
be forgotten. They were completely wrong. Many claimed that they had seen Jesus rise
from the dead, and these people became the first Christians, or followers of Christ. They
claimed that Jesus death had been a sacrifice for all sins, and that by believing that Jesus
had risen from the dead and committing your life to God, you would be forgiven of your
sins and escape hell. In spite of arrests, beatings, and even executions, they spread the
message that Jesus had risen from the dead and that if they believed in him their sins, or
rebellion against God, would be forgiven.
One of the most influential early Christians is Paul. At one point Paul persecuted and
even killed Christians, but converted to Jesus after his claim that Jesus confronted him
and made him blind. Once his sight was restored, Paul dedicated his life to serving Jesus
and sharing the Gospel all over the Roman Empire, as well as writing half of the New
Testament, a collection of holy books and teachings for Christians. Eventually, he was
executed in Rome for his beliefs.
As Christianity spread over time, the Romans began to see them as a threat to the empire.
Although Christian teachings include obeying the government, the Romans thought that
their preaching of love and peace to all flew in the face of Roman culture. After all, the
Romans had many slaves and oppressed the freedoms of many people, which was in
direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus. Also, Nero blamed them for starting the fire
of Rome. Starting then, Christianity was outlawed and any known Christians were put to
Over the course of a few centuries, attitude towards Christianity began to change in
Rome. The emperor Constantine declared that there was religious freedom in the empire
by the persuasion of his mother, who was a Christian. Eventually, Christianity became
the official religion of the empire. As Roman power declined, The Christian church
became the central institution of the western world for 1000 years. But as this happened,
the teachings of Christianity changed from following Jesus to following the laws made by
leaders in the church.
Who did the Romans excuse from worshipping Roman gods?
A. The Greeks
B. The Hebrews
C. The Egyptians
D. The Barbarians
Which of the following best describes Jesus’ message?
A. Heaven is for Jews only
B. Those who rebel against Rome are doing God’s will
C. If you are a good person you will go to heaven
D. If you believe Jesus’ teachings and follow him, you will have eternal life
What does “blasphemy” mean in this passage?
A. Being a Christian
B. Claiming to be the Son of God when you are not
C. Claiming superiority over Rome
D. Denying that Jesus is the Messiah the Jews were waiting for
When Jesus was executed, what best describes what his followers did?
A. They forgot about Jesus and went back to being good Hebrews
B. They claimed he rose from the dead and spread the Gospel of forgiveness of sins
because of his death and resurrection
C. They started a rebellion against Rome for killing Jesus
D. They started a rebellion against the religious leaders of Judaism and killed many
of them
What role did the journeys of Paul of Tarsus play in the spread of Christianity?
A. He traveled throughout the empire but language proved to be a difficult barrier.
B. Roman roads were dangerous so his travel was limited.
C. As a Roman citizen he brought the word of Jesus to large portions of the empire.
D. His journeys resulted in complete failure.
Why were the Romans threatened by Christianity?
A. They though Christian teachings were in conflict with Roman culture
B. They thought Christians were trying to overthrow the government
C. Christians refused to acknowledge the Roman government as having any power
over them
D. They were afraid that the Christians would try to start a civil war
Why did Constantine declare religious freedom in the Roman empire?
A. He saw economic advantages to include Christianity in the empire
B. The Christians had outnumbered all other religions in the empire
C. His mother was a Christian and convinced him that there should be religious
D. Constantine thought having Christians be open in their faith would increase the
ability of Rome to expand even further.
Christianity Procedures:
Give out the reading and responses, discuss answers
Read about Paul and his role in Christianity on the answer sheet.
Have students read and respond to Sermon on the Mount in the textbook
-How does this support Jesus emphasis on humility, mercy, and charity?
-Why might this teaching and people following this help hasten the end of the
Roman Empire?