History of Christianity
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with over 2.2 billion followers as of 2012. It arose as a subset of Judaism around the year zero, in the Levant, an area which includes present-day Israel. The religion was founded by Jesus Christ.
Christianity is so prevalent that historians use it as the starting point of modern history-splitting the historical timeline into BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini-or year of our lord in Latin).
The founding lore of Christianity, as set down in the Bible, states that Jesus Christ, a Jewish carpenter from Galilee, was the son of God. Jesus spent most of his adult life preaching about peace, justice, and self-discipline. His teachings were controversial, and he was captured by Jewish leaders, accused of blasphemy, and then executed by the Romans via crucifixion. Hence, the cross became the symbol of the religion. He then rose from the dead and told his followers to spread his message.
Initially, Christianity was a small heresy of Judaism, but the apostles, or key followers, of Jesus worked hard to spread the religion throughout the Roman Empire, where the religion was born. The Romans didn't like Christianity, as it said their gods were false, and so they persecuted Christians mercilessly, executing them or throwing them to the lions in gladiatorial rings.
For many centuries, Christianity grew in secret, until Emperor Constantine had a vision and became the first Roman Emperor to convert. By 380 AD, Christianity went from a tiny sect of Jewish fishermen to the official state religion of the Empire.
Christianity continued to spread despite the fall of Rome in the late 400s AD. By the year 1000, nearly all of Europe was Christian, except for some pagans left in Scandinavia. However, by this time, a new religion, Islam, had grown to be the dominant power in the Levant, where Christianity had been born, and where many of its holy sites were located.
Eager to retake the Holy Land, and to gain more political power, Pope Urban II, the head of the Catholic church, called upon the Christian kings of Europe to go on a series of crusades, or holy wars, against the Muslims. These holy wars cost thousands of lives on both sides. They ultimately failed, and only made Christians and Muslims into bitter enemies.
Other than the crusades, the defining crisis for Christianity is the Reformation, which took place in the 1500s and 1600s. It began when a monk named Martin Luther, who was unhappy with corruption in the church, famously nailed a list of 95 Theses, or problems he saw, to the door of a church in present-day Germany. Martin Luther had initially only wanted to change a few things about the church, but the situation spiraled beyond anyone's control, and several new denominations of Christianity were formed, like Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Protestantism.
Catholics did not like these new denominations, and so the Reformation culminated in the 30 Years' War, an awful bloodbath centered around present-day Germany, and the worst war until World War I.
Christianity continued to play a huge role in the formation of modern history. Hundreds of thousands of people were converted, forcibly or willingly, by the European explorers who charted the Americas, Africa, and Asia. This reveals one of the major reasons why Christianity became the biggest religion in the world. From its very start, Christians believed they had a duty to spread the word of Jesus Christ. It is one of the founding doctrines of the religion, and the reason why Christians can be found on every continent.
To link to this History of Christianity page, copy the following code to your site: