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Christian History:The Early Church

Updated on May 22, 2013

Origins Of Christianity

Christianity takes its name from the Greek word "Christ" meaning "Annoited One" (with the Blessing of God) . It is based upon the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ the Savior and, in the belief in one God who created Heaven and the universe.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Who came to this world to fulfill Old Testament prophecies.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World; "he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12RSV): He offers people salvation and, deliverence from their sins through repentance, putting their trust in Him and, being baptized into His Church;

Who Is God ?

*God is Eternal:Everlasting

*God Is Omnipotent:Unlimited power.

*God Is Omniscient:All-Knowing

*God Is Infinite:Without limits.

*God Is Omnipresent:Present everywhere at all times.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8,)

The Kingdom Of God
God revealed Himself through Creation, through His Word (the Bible) and, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Almost two-thirds of Jesus Christ's Parables refer to the Kingdom of God which formed the central theme of His Ministry.

When Jesus Christ said, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) He is referring to God's Heavenly Kingdom, the eternal home of God's people.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness". (Matthew 6:33)

The Jews were the first people to believe in One God (monotheism) while everyone else believed in many gods (polytheism). Through the Jews, God established a people who would worship the One and Only True God.

A Jew is is a descendent of the patriarch, Israel (Jacob) who worshipped God by the Law of Moses. All other people were considered gentiles (non-Jewish).

The Apostle Paul said there was no distinction at all, between Jew and Gentile when it came to salvation; "for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him". (King James Bible "Authorized Version", Cambridge Edition)

The Patriarchs
Abraham and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob are the great Patriarchs of the Old Testament and, founders of Judaism. Christianity developed out of Judaism that goes all the way back to the Old Testament.

The Twelve Tribes Of Israel
Israel ("power with God.") is the name that God gave the patriarch, Jacob (Genesis 32:28). The Twelves Tribes of Israel were named after the twelve sons of Jacob who each became the patriarch of an individual tribe. King David and Jesus Christ were from the tribe of Judah.

The Prophets
The Hebrew (Jewish) Prophets have had a tremendous influence in shaping religious faith. They were chosen by God to speak to people on His behalf.

God spoke to each of His prophets directly through visions and dreams in which they heard His Voice then, sent to proclaim His Message by His Authority.

Moses And The Ten Commandments
The greatest of the prophets was Moses who led his people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery. After forty years in the wilderness of the Sinai Desert he led his people toward the land promised by God (Canaan).

Moses authored the Torah, built the Ark of the Covenant and, received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai in the form of two stone tablets. The first four commandments show how to love God, and the last six how to love God's people.

The two greatest commandments are:
"The Lord your God is One. Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."

"Love thy neighbor as thyself".(Matthew 22:35-40)

Period Of The Kings 1000-587BC:The most famous king was David (1010-970BC) who made Jerusalem his capital.

His son, Solomon (970-931BC) built the First Temple there as a monument to Glorify God and, as a home for the Ark of the Covenant in which the Ten Commandments were placed.

The Greeks
The conquests and colonization of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BCE spread Greek culture and language. His ambition was to Hellenize the world founding over seventy cities such as Pergamon in Asia Minor, Antioch in Syria and, Alexandria in Egypt which bears his name.

His legacy lives on through the Hellenistic Age (4th to 1st century BC) where Greek culture dominated much of the Mediterranean and Middle East and Greek became the international language (even after the Roman conquests) which helped to rapidly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

The Romans
In the first century, the Romans controlled Judea where Jesus was Born and Lived His Life. They had established a system of government consisting of Roman governors and Jewish leaders who ruled in the name of Rome.

Bethlehem was known as the "City of David", (Jewish shepherd boy who slew the giant Phillistine warrior, Goliath). It was his birthplace and where he was annoited and crowned as the second king of Israel by the prophet Samuel.

Bethlehem is also revered by Christians worldwide as the Birthplace of Jesus marking the beginning of the Christian era. He was raised in poverty, in Nazareth.

Mary And Joseph
Mary, a young Jewish girl was chosen by God to bear a Child to be Born the Son of God. The Archangel Gabriel greeted her with the words "Rejoice O Blessed One, the Lord is with Thee! Blessed are Thou amongst women"! Mary's answer was simple, "Let it be according to the Will of God".

Joseph, a righteous and humble man, was chosen by God to be the earthly step-father of Jesus. His marriage to Mary was God's Will, raising Jesus in the Jewish spiritual traditions and trained Him in his trade, as that of a carpenter.

The Birth Of Jesus
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold the miracle of the Birth of Jesus 700 years earlier (Isaiah 7:14).

The Birth of Jesus begins with a reference to Caesar Augustus, Emperor of the powerful, Roman Empire.

"And so it came to pass in those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went to register with Mary who also, was a descendent of King David and of the tribe of Judah. Mary was expecting a Child. While there, the time came for the Baby to be Born."

"And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus was Born in a Humble Stable, and placed in an animal feeding-trough for a Crib surrounded by farm animals and shepherds. The Three Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognize the Divinity of the Baby Jesus by their offering of gold, francincense and myrrh.

The Herod Family:The Herod family who ruled Israel during the Life of Jesus played important roles in Christian history. Herod the Great saw Jesus as a threat and tried to have Him killed forcing Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus to escape to Egypt.

His son, Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist and was one of the conspirators who put Jesus Christ on trial.

John The Baptist
John the Baptist is revered in Christianity for Baptizing Jesus in the River Jordan. The Baptism revealed His Divinity as the Son of God when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove as He stood in the water and a Voice from Heaven proclaimed "This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased".

The Ministry Of Jesus Christ
God chose the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bring redemption and salvation to mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Jesus taught people to love God and, to love their neighbor, He healed the sick in body and mind, ministered to the poor, the oppressed and, sinners, teaching them that repentance and faith brought salvation that opened the Door to God's Heavenly Kingdom

His Ministry began with His Baptism in the River Jordan when He was about 30 years of Age (Luke 3:23), and ended in Jerusalem, following the Last Supper with His Disciples culminating in His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension to Heaven.

The Apostles:Jesus chose twelve disciples to symbolize the 12 Tribes of Israel. “Follow Me And I Will Make You Fishers of Men”. (Matthew 4:19)

The Miracles Of Jesus
The Four Gospels record about thirty-five Miracles attributed to Jesus during the course of His Ministry (there were many more). These miracles were actual historical events recorded in the Four Gospels of the Holy Bible as testimony of Jesus Christ's Divinity. Their purpose was to build faith in Jesus as the Savior.

The miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead was a key reason the crowd flocked to Jesus when He made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and why the chief priests decided to get get rid of Him. It was a preview of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ just one week later.

Palm Sunday
Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. People greeted Him as the King of Israel with palm branches and His Divine Kingdom was proclaimed under the branches of a palm tree.

The Last Supper
The Last Supper took place outside the Old City of Jerusalem and was the Last Meal Jesus shared with His Apostles before His Crucifixion.

He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it among His Disciples saying "This is my Body given to you in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). He then shared wine (His Blood of the New Covenant) and gave to each of His Disciples.

The Crucifixion of Jesus
The betrayal of Jesus was in accordance with God's will (Act 2:23) foretold by the prophet Zechariah five hundred years before (Zec 11:12–13).

Jesus was to be the Sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".

Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to become one of His Disciples because this would allow God's Plan to be fulfilled.

Judas has forever, become known for his kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests in exchange for thirty silver coins. After his betrayal Judas felt remorse and committed suicide by hanging himself.

The Crown Of Thorns:After Jesus’ trials the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate handed Him over to be Crucified. The Roman soldiers placed a Crown Of Thorns on His Head, He was beaten, spat upon and mocked, "Hail, king of the Jews!"

The Cross Of Christ: Carrying His own Cross He struggled up the hillside of Golgotha where He was nailed to the Cross and placed between two criminals. Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing".

One of the criminals spoke to Jesus saying, "Remember me when you come into your Kingdom". Jesus replied, "Truly, I tell you today, you will be with Me in Paradise". He then cried out, "Father into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit".

The Resurrection:The Miraculous Resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred on the Sunday following the Friday on which He was Crucified.

Mary Magdalene:Mary Magdalene followed Jesus. She was present at His Crucifixion and Burial and was the one who went to the Tomb on Easter Sunday to Annoint His Body. She was the first, to see the Risen Lord, and to announce His Resurrection to the Apostles.

Jesus said to her, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die". (John 11:25-26)

The Ascension
Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus Christ led His Disciples to the Mount of Olives and gave them His Last Commandment (The Great Commission). Beginning from Jerusalem, they were to go forth and spread his Teachings to all the nations of the world and to baptize people in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Then, in the presence of His Disciples He Ascended into Heaven. The foundations of Christianity were laid.

"In My Father’s House are many Mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you". (John 14:2)

The early Christian Church was established after much suffering and martyrdom. Many Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified.

Even the Apostles were to suffer martyrdom through violent deaths. For example, Peter was crucified upside down, Matthew was bludgeoned to death, Andrew was nailed upside down to an X-shaped Cross, Paul was beheaded, Luke was hanged, while Mark was dragged to death.

John the Evangelist was the only Apostle who did not suffer a violent death. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. He died of natural causes as an old man and was buried near Ephesus about 100AD.

Apostolic Age:First century Christianity is referred to as the Apostolic Age, the period of the Twelve Apostles dating from the Crucifixion of Jesus to the death of Saint John, the last of the Twelve Apostles.

After Jerusalem, early Christianity began to spread throughout Asia Minor in the predominantly Greek speaking, gentile, areas of the Roman Empire as the Apostles and other early Christians carrying the Message of Jesus told of His Crucifixion, Resurrection and, Ascension to Heaven.

Antioch was where the first Gentile church was founded and, where the Disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians.

Asia Minor was also the birthplace of many who became Christian Saints which included Saint Paul, Saint Nicholas, Saint George and, Saint Basil to name just a few. And, the first Christian Empire-the medieval Byzantine Empire was located here.

Important centers where the early Christian church was established include Alexandria, Caesaria, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Thessalonica, Cyprus, Crete, Patmos and Rhodes.

Other prominent centers within the Roman Empire where the early church spread were Samaria, Damascus, Joppa, Tyre, Berea, Malta, and Rome.

Why Did The Jews Reject Jesus?
The Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah because He failed to do what they expected Him to do-deliver them from Roman bondage and, establish Israel as the pre-eminent nation in the world.

Christianity became a separate religion from Judaism when it began to accept non-Jews (Gentiles), it ceased to observe Jewish practices and, the Christian church was defined as a separate entity from Judaism.

The final division between Judaism and Christianity occurred after the Jewish-Roman wars which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. The Bar Kokhbar revolt in 135AD decimated and dispersed many Jews by force to leave their homeland of Israel.

The Byzantine Empire
On the evening of October 27, 312AD the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great had a vision of a Cross in the sky with the Greek words "EN-TOU-TW-NIKA" (By this you shall win) on the four sides. The design of the Cross and Greek words was placed with his battle banner, Laborium as the sign of Christianity at the head of his army.

Constantine defeated his brother-in-law Maxentius in the battle of Milvanian Bridge. In 313AD he and his other brother-in-law agreed to recognize the Christian church which came to be known as the Edict of Milan.

Constantine then, established the Greek city of Byzantium as the second capital of the Roman Empire on May 11, 330AD and gave it his name, Constantinople.

Constantinople however, was Hellenistic therefore, its language and culture were Greek. It was to become famous as the capital of the new Byzantine Empire where Greek Orthodox became the official religion gaining pre-eminence over other Christian centers in the East as Rome did in the West.

Eastern Christianity grew apart from western Christianity and, when Rome fell to Germanic invaders in 476 AD, the Greeks became identified with the Byzantine Empire altogether.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem wad built in the 4th century AD by Helene, the mother of Constantine the Great over the site identified as the Birthplace of Jesus.

She was also responsible for the construction of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem over the site of Christ’s Burial and Resurrection, which was completed in 335 AD.

For their services to Christianity, Constantine and his mother Helene are venerated as Saints in the Orthodox Church.

The First Council Of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea in 325AD is commonly used to mark the end of Early Christianity.

The First Council was held in Nicaea, Asia Minor in 325AD. Constantine the Great called the first Ecumenical Council of Bishops of the early Christian Church to resolve disputes, especially that concerned with Arianism (A heresy denying the Divinity of Christ, originating with the Alexandrian priest Arius).

Its purpose was to define beliefs and church law for the whole of Christendom which resulted in the Nicene Creed. (We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible).

Holy Bible
The Holy Bible is the Word of God and, the sacred Book of Judaism and Christianity.

Its pages are filled with history and prophesy, proverbs and parables, narratives and poetry and, in theology and law.

From the Angels and Prophets, to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the Apostles and Saints and, to our Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, their lives, their stories as well as all the famous Biblical events have all had a profound impact on the spiritual, moral and, political development of our world and played an important part in shaping Christian faith and life.

There are thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament and twenty-seven under New Testament, making sixty-six in all. Both are inseparably united. The Old was written before Christ and the New after Christ. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with a few passages in Aramaic) and the New Testament in Greek and was one thousand, six hundred years in preparation.

The sixty-six books which make up the Bible were the work of some thirty-five authors from all walks of life who wrote under the inspiration and power of God's Holy Spirit.

The two most prolific authors were Moses in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament. Other prominent writers include Joshua the general, Samuel the prophet, David, the shepherd boy who became a king and his son, Solomon, who built the first Temple in Jerusalem. It includes Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Denominations of Christianity
For the first thousand years of Christian history there were no "denominations" within the Christian church. Since then, Christianity has divided into various denominations throughout the world each, with their own distinctive beliefs and practices.

The Great Schism:The first division occurred in 1054 with the "Great Schism" between the Western church in Rome and the Eastern church in Constantinople. From that, Christianity came to be known as the Orthodox Church (in the East) and the Catholic church (in the West).

Protestant Reformation:The next major division occurred within the Western Church with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century initiated by the German monk and theologian, Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants.

The Crusades

With the birth of Islam in the 7th century AD, the Christian world had to face a new power. The Crusades were the response to Muslim conquests of nearly two-thirds of the Christian world.

It was launched on 27 November 1095 by Pope Urban II who responded to an appeal from the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I for western help against Seljuk Turks invading Constantinople. Their objective was to re-capture and restore the sacred city of Jerusalem and other Christian lands from Islamic control.

The Crusades failed for a number of reasons. First, they were vastly outnumbered by the Muslims, the immense distance over land and, lack of sea transport to the Holy Land and, lack of co-operation between the two branches of Christianity, eastern (Constantinople) and, western (Rome) caused an inability to support the Holy Land wars effectively.

The Kingdom Of God
The Birth Of Jesus
Crucifixion And Resurrection
Growth Of Christianity
Holy Bible
There is but One God-the Creator of Heaven and the universe
Faith in Jesus Christ and belief in One God..
The Birth of Jesus-a Child that changed the world.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection are the two most important events in Christian History.
Forty days after the Resurrection Jesus gave His Last Commandment to His Disciples-that they go forth and proclaim His Name to all nations.
The Holy Bible is the sacred Book of the Christian and Jewish religions.
Jesus said to His Disciples; "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

The Birth Of Jesus Christ

Over two thousand years ago a Child was Born in a Humble Stable in Bethlehem. The Birth of Jesus marked the beginning of the Christian era.
Over two thousand years ago a Child was Born in a Humble Stable in Bethlehem. The Birth of Jesus marked the beginning of the Christian era.

Jesus The Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His Name’s sake.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His Name’s sake.

The Ascension Of Jesus

Jesus Ascended into Heaven on a cloud of light to take His Place at the Right Hand of the Father.
Jesus Ascended into Heaven on a cloud of light to take His Place at the Right Hand of the Father.

The Growth Of Early Christianity

After Jerusalem, early Christianity began to spread throughout Asia Minor in the predominantly Greek speaking, gentile, eastern half of the Roman Empire
After Jerusalem, early Christianity began to spread throughout Asia Minor in the predominantly Greek speaking, gentile, eastern half of the Roman Empire

The Crusaders

 The Crusades were the Christian response to Muslim conquests from the 11th to the 13th century.
The Crusades were the Christian response to Muslim conquests from the 11th to the 13th century.

How Great Thou Art-Elvis Presley


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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      You said in the text:

      The Byzantine Empire

      On the evening of October 27, 312AD the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great had a vision of a Cross in the sky with the Greek words "EN-TOU-TW-NIKA" (By this you shall win) on the four sides. The design of the Cross and Greek words was placed with his battle banner, Laborium as the sign of Christianity at the head of his army.

      Let me suggest that God does not and never has taken sides in a battle. Any interpretation of "Scripture" that advocates war or fighting is not scripture.

      It is unfortunate that in the Old Testament God is depicted violently, as a War God. We should turn to the New Testament where God is depicted as Peaceful.


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