Published on March 25th, 20131
The Rise of Christ
By Tor G. Jakobsen
Christianity is at present the world’s largest religion with more than 2.1 billion followers. It is divided into several traditions, with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox Christianity being its major branches. But this has not always been the case. We in Popular Social Science have taken a closer look at the humble origins of Christianity.
Christianity as a religion saw its birth on the first Pentecost 49 days after Jesus rose from the dead. The original followers of Christ were Jews; however they differed from the views of traditional Judaism in that they believed Jesus was the Son of God and the savior of humanity.
Jerusalem was the center of Christianity. It was here one found the holy sites and the first congregation of Christians. However, the first Jewish-Roman War was to change things dramatically.
First, the Temple was destroyed and many Christians were killed suspected of treason against the Romans. Second, the remaining Christians distanced themselves further from Judaism, due to the animosity between Romans and Jews. Christianity was now free to develop and spread by its own force, and it began its journey through the Roman Empire.
In the year 64 a fire hit Rome, and Emperor Nero blamed it on the Christian community. The Christians were persecuted and executed in large numbers; their religion described as a new and malefic superstition. Some Christians were even set on fire in Nero’s gardens, in order to illuminate them.
Even though the persecution took place throughout the Roman Empire; it rather increased than diminished the religion, and provided the martyrdom of St. Paul and St. Peter.
The Baptism of Constantine
Christianity did not disappear, and in the 3rd century many in the intellectual elite in Rome and other cities belonged to this new domination. Several emperors had good friends that were Christians, and Emperor Philippus Arabs (204–249) was nicknamed the “Christian Emperor” due to his sympathy with the Christian faith. Still, the 3rd century saw many more persecutions, the last ones put into action by Emperor Valerian in 257.
With the death of Valerian Christianity was again free. Thousands of new believers joined the cause and several new churches were built. The faith proved victorious when Emperor Constantine the Great was baptized in 337.
By the end of the 4th century it became the official state church of the Roman Empire, and was adopted by the new Germanic states following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. With the age of discovery Christianity conquered the rest of the World through its message of Jesus being the son of God.
*Cover photo by Kevin Jones