Christianity’s Take Off The emergence of a small Judaic religious sect into the official religion of the Roman Empire constitutes a quite remarkable story. No one living in the early empire could have anticipated this turn of events, and even looking back from hindsight this evolution is difficult to explainThe ascension of Christianity as the RomanEmpire‟s official religion took several centuriesand it never erased all its rivals, yet thisremarkable ascent would raise one of the mainpillars of medieval Christendom.
Christianity’s Take OffJust as the Romans influenced the people they conquered, the conqueredpeople influenced Romans.What exactly is Christianity, what is it based on? Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus, who lived in Palestine during the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.-14 A.D.) followed by Tiberius (14 A.D- 37A.D.). At first, most Romans ignored or ridiculed Christianity. Jesus refused to worship statues of Roman Gods and the Roman emperor. He preached that God created all humans and loved them like a father loved his children, particularly people who had sinned. Jesus promised eternal life (life after death) to people who were truly sorry and who placed their trust in God, they would be forgiven. Augustus
Christianity’s Take Off In the beginning, political conditions did not favour the spread of Christianity. Although all people in the Roman Empire were allowed to worship freely, Romans expected everyone to honour the emperor as a god. Christians and Jews refused to do this. Christians did not want to serve in the army or hold public office. They often criticized Roman festivals and games. Christians taught that all people would be equal in heaven if they followed Jesus‟ teachings. Thus, the Romans blamed and punished Christians for all kinds of disasters such as plagues and famines. In 64 A.D., they accused the Christians of starting a fire which burned down much of Rome. Christianity was then made illegal and many were killed. In Rome, Christians were forbidden to use regular burial places, they had to bury their dead in crowded catacombs. The rich elite did not want anything to do with a religion whose founder had died by crucifixion. Diocletian (245- 313A.D.) was the last Roman emperor to persecute Christians in large numbers. In 311 Galerius (308- 312A.D.), ruler of the eastern Roman Empire, permitted freedom of worship.
Christianity’s Take OffMystery Religions: The late empire was full of localcults. The rise of various Eastern mystery religions must beseen as corresponding to changes in the Late Empire. Why were people attracted to Christianity? The appeal of mystery religion lay in speaking about an after life (life after death (resurrection)) in a society where many were miserable, where life was extremely uncertain. It provided people with something to look forward to, it provided hope in a world filled with hopelessness for many. It attracted people who for various reasons felt left out of full Roman identity. Christianity appealed more to the poor workers and slaves. The persecution of Christians expressed a real Roman fear that Roman citizens were losing their patriotic attachment to the state.
The Spread of Christianity How did it spread? Christianity‟s initial roots were in the Near East: Anatolia and Greece. It spread following the trade routes from the East to Rome. Slowly, Christianity spread westward and northward. It attracted people who for various reasons felt left out of full Roman identity. After the recognition of the Church missionaries were dispatched further north, especially to convert the Barbarian kings and their peoples. Following the establishment of Christianity as the official religion, the faith attracted a new age of converts, people from the upper classes, educated, influential and ambitious people who sought advancement inside the empire.The Barbarian invasions that brought about aneconomic decline in Western Europe alsodiminished the Church and its learning. Duringthe fifth century Ireland and the British Islesemerged as a leading Christian center havinglargely escaped the ravages of the „barbarians‟,while Christianity came under pressure in NorthAfrica and the Near East from other groups,particularly Muslims.
The Spread of Christianity Saint Paul A.D. 3- 67), the greatest missionary of Christianity and its first theologian, called Apostle to the Gentiles (non Jewish people). St. Paul of Tarsus travel routes
Ascension to Official ReligionIn 312 A.D., Christianity gained the support ofConstantine (Constantine’s “Conversion” atMilvian Bridge).Legend says that as he was about to go into battle, Constantine saw a flaming cross in the sky. Written beneath the cross were the words “ In this sign thou shalt conquer.” Constantine won the battle and with it the throne of the Roman Empire. Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_P0FZfPlSA Historians question the story of Constantines conversion at Milvian Bridge 312 A.D.., it makes for an interesting story. Constantine did not give up his Roman practices and was not baptized until on his death bed.
Constantine The following year (313), Constantine issued The Edict of Milan. This imperial edict ordered toleration for all religions (it granted religious freedom to all) and made Christianity legal (that had been targeted by the Diocletian persecutions). This set the stage for Christianity‟s rapid growth inside the Roman Empire. Constantine had churches built in Rome and Jerusalem. He allowed the use of government money to support Christian churches. He permitted church leaders to enter government service and excused them from paying taxes. In 330, for religious and strategic reasons, Constantine dedicated a new capital, called Constantinople (modern İstanbul Turkey), on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium. Constantine
Theodosius IIn 391 A.D., Emperor Theodosius establishes Christianity asRome‟s State Religion (Rome‟s official religion).Theodosius was a strong champion of Christianity.He banned the practice of the old Roman pagan religion(pantheistic cults).Pantheistic: Believing in a God that is synonymous withnature, life and the universe- that is, finding God in all things.Theodosius I (346-395 A.D.) was the last Roman Emperor torule a united Roman Empire. At his death in 395, he left theeastern portion of the empire to his 18-year-old son, Arcadius,and the western portion to his 10-year-old son, Honorius. Asuccession of child emperors weakened the throne, and noemperor ever again successfully controlled both east and west.