[Home]History of Christianity

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This article outlines the history of Christianity and provides links to relevant topics.

Roots of Christianity

The Jewish background

Christianity emerged from Judaism in the first century of the common era. Christian brought from Judaism its scriptures (the Old Testament) and fundamental doctrines such as monotheism, and the belief in a moshiach (Hebrew term for messiah; this term is more commonly known as Christ (Greek.) The Jewish picture of the messiah is a national one - the deliverer of Israel, and has significant differences from how Christians understand the term. Christianity developed a new form of the messiah, in which Jesus became the son of God in a literal sense, and the saviour of all mankind.

The Life of Jesus of Nazereth

The earliest emergence of Christianity

Starting with the events recorded in the Gospels and Acts, Christianity grew from the personal practice of a minority of Jews, to the dominant religious group of the Mediterranean world in little over 300 years. It also gained important extensions to the east and south of the Mediterranean. This section will examine those first 300 years.

Early Controversies

Disputes of doctrine began early on. The newly-organised church organised councils to sort matters out. Some groups were rejected as heretics.

Competing Religions

Christianity was far from the only religion seeking and finding converts in the 1st century. Modern historians of the Roman world often discern interest in what they tend to call mystery religions or mystery cults beginning in the last century of the Roman Republic and increasing during the centuries of the Roman Empire. Roman authors themselves, such as Livy, tell of the importation of "foreign gods" during times of stress in the Roman state. Judaism, too, was receiving converts and in some cases actively evangelising. The New Testament reflects a class of people referred to as 'believers in God' who are thought to be Gentile converts, perhaps those who had not submitted to circumcision; Philo? of Alexandria makes explicit the duty of Jews to welcome converts.

Second and third centuries

In the third century conventionally educated converts began to produce two kinds of writings that help us understand the developing shapes of Christianity - works aimed at a broad audience of educated non-Christians and works aimed at those who considered themselves inside the Church. The writing for non-Christians is usually called apologetic in the same sense that the speech given by Socrates in his defense before the Athenian assembly is called his Apology - the word in Greek meant "speech for the defense" rather than the modern more limited denotation of "statement expressing regret". The Apologists, as these authors are sometimes known, made a presentation for the educated classes of the beliefs of Christians, often coupled with an attack on the beliefs and practices of the pagans. Other writings had the purpose of instructing and admonishing fellow Christians.

Fourth century

Development of the canon of scripture

Christianity legalized in the Roman Empire

Fourth-century pagan revival by Rome

The Christology controversies

Christianity becomes a state religion

Fifth century

The conversion of the Mediterranean world

Developing Christianity outside the Mediterranean world

Christianity was not restricted to the Mediterranean basin and its hinterlands; at the time of Jesus a large proportion of the Jewish population lived in Mesopotamia outside the Roman Empire, especially in the city of Babylon, where much of the Talmud was developed.

Development of the Papacy

The rise of Islam

Church & state in the Medieval west

Schisms between East and West

The Later Middle Ages

The Reformation and Counter Reformation


Discusses the rise of the major denominations after the Reformation, and the challenges faced by Catholicism.
Lots missing here.

The Restoration

This is a bit sketchey, not sure about the title either. currently readin up on this...

19th Century

The Earliest Controversies Resurface in New Forms

Anti-Clericalism and Atheistic Communism

In many revolutionary movements the church was associated with the established repressive regimes. Thus, for example, after the French Revolution and the [Mexican Revolution]? there was a distinct anti-clerical tone in those countries that exists to this day. On a more extreme level, Karl Marx condemned religion as the "opium of the people"[1] and the Marxist-Leninist? states of the twentieth century were officially atheistic.

20th Century and beyond

Christianity in the 20th century was characterised by accelerating fragmentation. The century saw the rise of both liberal and conservative splinter groups, as well as a general secularisation of Western society. The Roman Catholic church instituted many reforms in order to modernise. Missionaries also made inroads in the [Far East]?, establishing further followings in China, Taiwan, and Japan.



The rise of free evangelical churches

Evangelism in the 10/40 Window

The Spread of Secularism

In Europe there has been a general move away from religious observation and belief in Christion teachings and a move towards secularism. For example the Gallup International Millennium Survey[2] showed that only about one sixth of Europeans attend regular religious services, less than half gave God "high importance", and only about 40% believe in a "personal God". Nevertheless the large majority considered that they "belong" to a religious denomination.

In North America and South America, the other two continents where Christianity is the dominant professed religion, religious observation is much higher than in Europe.


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Last edited December 16, 2001 12:08 pm by Koyaanis Qatsi (diff)