The History Of The Emergence And Spread Of Christianity And Islam
Christianity is one of the most spread religions in the world. It centers its belief in the public life of Jesus Christ. The term Christianity is a derivation of the followers of Christ. Therefore, Jesus is the pioneer of this faith. Christians base their teaching on the bible, Christian’s sacred book, primarily on the New Testament. It, however, indefinitely describes the origin and the evolution of the religion. This paper will focus on the origin of Christianity.
Christianity’s origin can be traced back to the first century when the Holy Spirit descended from the eleven disciples of Jesus. Jesus was the son of Mary and joseph. According to the bible, Mary was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Hence, Joseph was not Jesus’s biological father. He was born between 4 BCE and 1 BCE in Bethlehem, Jerusalem. It was during the era of King Herod the Great. Thirty years later, Jesus started his ministry. He first chose twelve disciples who would assist and flourish the gospel after him. He then went around Palestine preaching. Most Jews referred to him as their king, while some called him the messiah. During their reign, he encountered a lot of challenges from some Jews and other Romans. Jesus’s reign lasted for about three years. He was then arrested and accused of treason and crucified. According to Christianity traditions, Jesus was resurrected three days after his death. He then ascended to heaven forty days later. The resurrection and ascension were an affirmation that he was the messiah foretold decades BCE.
On the day of Pentecost, ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended on the eleven apostles. One of Jesus’s helpers had committed suicide after betraying him. The eleven disciples were the first Christians. The Holy Spirit empowered them to continue disseminating the gospel even outside Palestine. In that same century, 1st century CE, about three thousand Jews were converted. However, most Romans did not embrace Christianity. Hence, they executed Christians.
In 37 AD, Paul, previously Saul, was transformed. Paul was a tentmaker and a persecutor of Christians before the transformation. According to history, Paul converted while he was on the way to Damascus, where he was going to persecute more believers. Paul’s conversion led to a significant move in the spreading of Christianity. Immediately after conversion, Paul began his missionary work in synagogues, in Damascus. Non-Christians felt betrayed and started plotting against him. Therefore, Paul fled to the Arabian Desert for three years. He returned to Jerusalem at around 40 AD but faced more threats which led him to run to his hometown. Between 41 AD and 44 AD, Paul was preaching in Tarsus and surroundings. Paul viewed gentiles as equal to Jews; hence, they deserved the opportunity to join Jewish Christianity. During this period, a lot of gentiles converted to Christianity.
Following the rapid embracement of the Christian faith by both the gentile and Jews in Syria, Antioch became the leading center of Christianity. Barnabas, therefore, called upon Paul to assist him. Paul went to Antioch at around 45 AD, where he began his first missionary journey at about 48 AD. Paul accompanied by Barnabas set off for Paphos, Cyprus.
While in Cyprus, Paul performed a miracle, the curse of a sorcerer with temporary blindness. The miracle led to the conversion of a large number of non-Christians. Series Paulus, a Roman proconsul, was among those who converted. They then set to Perga, Pamphylia then to Pisidian Antioch. Their determination at Antioch stirred Jewish leaders to obstruct them. They were later expelled from the region. After dismissal, Paul and Barnabas went to Galatia. They preached and converted non-believers in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. At Lystra, Paul performed another miracle, healing a disabled man, which led to some Jews from Antioch and Iconium, causing the stoning of Paul. However, Paul recovered and returned to Syria via Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. The journey of about two years led to the prompt spread of Christianity in Rome.
At about 51 AD, after the Jerusalem council meeting, Paul started his second missionary journey. The journey took about two years. He first revisited areas of his first journey before proceeding to the coastal city of Troas, on the Aegean Sea. He then took the gospel to Macedonia and its traveled neighborhoods. Silas, Paul’s companion during the second journey, and Paul were arrested while at Philip after Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl. They were later released, and they traveled to Athens past Thessalonica and Berea. They also spent time in Corinth, Caesarea in Palestine, and Jerusalem before returning to Syrian Antioch.
After a short stay in Antioch, Paul departed for the third journey. He revisited churches he had founded on his previous missionary journeys before visiting Ephesus. Paul then went to Macedonia and Achaia. He left Greece after discovering some Jewish leaders were planning to kill him. From Greece, he traveled back to Asia and then to Jerusalem. In about 58 AD, Paul arrived in Jerusalem but was arrested shortly after his arrival. He was later released after appealing to Caesar about two years later.
Christianity had significantly spread in Rome and outside Rome by 64 AD. However, some roman leaders were not pleased by the Christian acts. Hence, they blamed and punished believers for most disasters. For example, Emperor Nero blamed them for the fire that broke out and destroyed much of Rome. Paul and Peter were two of the Christians who fall victim to major accusations that followed the incident. Christianity was then illegalized until 313 AD.
Two years later, in about 68 AD, Emperor Nero died and was succeeded by Vespasianus. By 70 AD, great Jews revolt against the Roman government arose. The rebellion led to the destruction of churches in Jerusalem. The events slowed the spreading of religion.
Between 71 AD and 115 AD, evangelist Mark introduced Christianity in Africa, Alexandria, Egypt. He found Coptic Christianity which later spread to northern Africa and other parts along the red sea. At around 180 AD, a school of Christian theology was open at Alexandria. After, at about 189 AD, Vittore I became the first African elected pope.
At around 206 AD, king Abgar IX converted Edessa into a Christian city. It became the first city in the world where Christianity was allowed. However, the spreading of Christianity was undermined by the sporadic persecution it faced. In 250 AD, another empire-wide Christian persecution started. It was under the rule of Emperor Decius. The Christians had refused to offer religious sacrifice in the presence of Roman officials as the emperor had ordered in the decree of Decius. The edict was repealed later at around 261 AD. The persecution remained local until Emperor Diocletian instituted a series of rules, similar to Emperor Decius’s proclamation. By 300 AD, approximately twenty-five percent of the total roman population was Christian.
Emperor Diocletian abdicated the position and was succeeded by Emperor Constantius in 305 AD. In 306 AD, Emperor Constantine took over after the death of Constantius. It is believed that Constantine saw Christ and heard a voice that said “in this, conquer” before proceeding to war against Maxentius at Milvian Bridge at around 311 AD. He emerged the victor and took the city of Rome. The victory led to his conversion. In AD 313, Emperor Constantine met Emperor Licinius of the east, and they both signed the edict of Milan. The decree marked the end of Christian persecution and the legalization of traveledthe religion.
The conversion of the emperor marked a new turning point in the growth of religion. Emperor Constantine allowed Christians to take part in civic life as other roman citizens. He built churches and permitted Christians to receive donations. The wealth acquired allowed Christians to build more churches and other Christian-governed institutes such as hospitals, and schools, among others. Hence religion gained more popularity. In 321 AD, the Christians’ worship day was declared an official rest day. Constantine is also known for his trial to unite Christians. In around 325 AD, Constantine attended the council of Nicaea which formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. In 331 AD, Emperor Constantine ordered bishop Eusebius to deliver bibles to the church of Constantinople. Before he died in 337 AD, Constantine was baptized.
Christianity continued to gain fame even after the death of Constantine. His sons were more positive in affirming Christianity. However, Christianity faced another challenge when Julian took over the throne. Emperor Julian supported paganism. Although paganism was almost dilapidated, Julian tried to restore temples. He also appointed pagans in high public offices contrary to Constantine. Julian’s reign lasted for two years and was succeeded by Jovian. At first, Jovian objected, claiming that he was a Christian. His troop discouraged his decline and supported him into his reign.
Through the edict of Thessalonica, in 380 AD, emperor Theodosius made Christianity an official state religion of the Roman Empire and illegalized paganism. The decree commanded every citizen to convert to Christianity. Although pagans were persecuted, they were not brutally persecuted as Christians. One year later, Theodosius issued another edict that required Christians to worship one God as per the Nicene Creed. The decree was meant to unite Christians.
Due to factors such as geographical separation, linguistic differences, political factors, and doctrinal differences, among others, Christianity split into two, the orthodox churches and the catholic churches. The division began between the fourth and fifth century after the total decline of the Roman Empire due to the barbarian invasion. During this period, Roman popes played not only religious roles but also political roles. Later, at around 526 AD, the schism was healed.
The tension between the two groups was felt again between the tenth and eleventh centuries, which led to permanent division. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, distinctive theologies and controversies developed. The most noted controversy is the filioque controversy. It relates to the procession of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. The controversy and the papal power were the two main reasons that led to the great schism of 1054 AD. Years later, pope Urban II attempted to reunite the two groups of Christianity. It was when the byzantine pleaded for help against Islam in a series of crusades from the 10th to 13th century. The crusades were religious wars between Christians and Muslims. Christians had initiated the wars intending to recapture the holy lands which were occupied by the Muslims. The Islam forces had conquered the areas in the 6th century.
It was after the byzantine-Persian wars. The wars began at around 602 AD. After the execution of Emperor Maurice of the Persian Empire, Khusro II attempted to overthrow the murderer of his benefactor. The attempts led to a struggle to conquer byzantine. In twenty years of struggle, Persians had captured Syria, Jerusalem, and Egypt reaching Bosporus. The fights led to killings and destroying properties hence leaving both empires less immune to Islamic forces that attacked later from 635 AD.
The Islamic leader Muhammad is believed to have had a vision that demanded him to destroy all religions that practiced polytheism and idolatry. Muhammad viewed Christianity as pantheist in that; it worshipped both God and Jesus. Hence it was to be destroyed. The Muslim forces first attacked Damascus then Jerusalem in AD 635 and 637 consecutively. The troops then conquered byzantine in 639 AD and Alexandria in 642 AD. By 653 AD, Islam had defeated Persia, Syria, and Palestine. In 732 AD, the Muslims were defeated by Charles the hammer of frank. By then it had cast its destruction on Asia Minor, North Africa, Carthage, Spain, Portugal, and Gaul.
The spreading of Islam religion was rapid and more successive. Unlike Christianity, Islam had simple rules and doctrines. Its simplicity attracted more converts. It was also facilitated by successive invasions that both empires had experienced. More so, factors, such as doctrinal differences and clerical formation, which were affecting the unity of Christianity, had led some Christians to embracing Islam religion.
The distinctive theologies continued to develop after the crusades. In the 15th century, martin Luther initiated a protestant reformation. It was against religious authority and traditions. The reform led to his ex-communication from the Catholic Church in 1521 AD. Protestant reformation marked the beginning of new Christian church history and the rise of different denominations.
In summary, Christianity started as a small sect of religion but later grew into an international religion. Christian missionaries and leaders were determined in spreading the gospel despite many challenges. They managed to attract more converts; hence, the rapid growth of the Christian faith.
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